Not every colorful, and spectacular mating ritual on earth is easy to see with the naked eye, especially when creatures taking part could fit easily onto your fingernail. One of the more spectacular events of this type occurs when Jumping spiders, especially those of the peacock variety, get in the mood for love.
The tiny, male spiders, bright and iridescent in coloring, with distinct shades of red, green and blue, struts his stuff for the plain female, showing off his attractiveness. The head and breast area of his body, and the legs, normally dark brown to black, with red stripes, greenish upper abdomen more prettily patterned , having red and blue stripes across it. Only 4 or 5mm across, these are truly tiny creatures.
It is the province to the males to be so flashy, the ladies, and juveniles, being drab and dull, plain brown in color, found mainly in the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland. Male spiders also boast two rounded flaps, skin-like, on each side of the abdomen , usually folded down, close against the body, at the times it is not in use.
A hunter with excellent eye-sight, this little fellow can detect prey 20 cm away, quite a feat, considering his size, and the gaudy, brilliant coloring is not merely decorative, but serves a vital function. The peacock spider, so called because of his mating ritual, really earns that name, when he courts his desired mate in earnest.
Raising his abdomen vertically, until he stands as tall as possible, he then expands his flaps, displaying them, as a peacock does with the tail, simultaneously raising his third leg set, which are decorated with brushes of black bristles, with white-tipped ends that stand out. In the process of vibrating his raised legs and tail, he begins to dance, from side to side, or rolls, as would a sailor, on approaching the female. This truly spectacular courtship dance gets repeated many times, the male dancing for other females with equal fervor.
The courtship behavior of this species compares with that of some European varieties, though none are as colorful. The name, like that of many common arachnids on the continent of Australia, originated with European botanists, over a century ago. This particular type is also known as the gliding spider, or flying spider, as the word Volans in the Latin name suggests, but the ‘wing’ flap is used only for courtship, hence the preferred name of peacock spider, which fits very well.
Even though this courtship dance is only really visible to us through the magic of cameras and magnification, it is nonetheless a glorious sight, and yet another stunning example of the beauty that nature can, and does, effortlessly and continually provide for us. The greatest show on earth, and all for free.