Newly Discovered Peacock Spider Has Pattern Resembling an Elephant on Abdomen

Posted on March 29, 2015

Maratus elephans

A new peacock spider has been discovered in New South Wales, Australia. The spider has a pattern resembling an elephant on its abdomen. The spider has been named Maratus elephans. It is described in a new research paper by Jurgen C. Otto and David E. Hill. The spider is named for the pattern on its extended opisthosomal fan which resembles the head of a male elephant as seen from the front.

There are more photographs of M. elephans here on Jurgen Otto's Flickr page. Otto discovered the species in a collection at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

Jurgen Otto says on Flickr, "When I looked through the Maratus specimens preserved in ethanol at the Australian Museum in Sydney in 2012 I noticed two individuals that were collected in 2001 by museum staff near Tamworth, about 5 hours from where I live. I went to that location five times to find some live ones that I could photograph, but no luck, despite some hard searching. I was close to despairing and started to think that I would perhaps never find it, when a friend of mine, Stuart Harris offered to have a look while travelling in that region, and came back with two males and a female. These formed the basis for the scientific description of this spider."

The researchers say M. elephans has larger flaps on its opisthosoma than most peacock spdiers. They say in their research paper that the only species of Maratus in eastern Australia that has equally large flaps fringed with long setae is M. volans. M. elephans can fold these flaps back down onto its body and raise them up when it wants to make a display. A video of the dance of M. elephans can be found here on Facebook.

Otto and Hill were also behind the recently announced Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus discoveries. A research paper on the new species, M. elephans, can be found here in the journal, Peckhamia.

Photo: Jurden Otto