Sydney Scientists Discover New Peacock Spider Species -- And They Are Truly Stunning

'Adorable spiders' are now a thing.

31/05/2016 2:55 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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If you're an arachnophobe... read on.

These little guys are tiny, harmless and vivid in colour -- and they have some killer 'jumping' dance moves to boot.

Sydney biologist Jurgen Otto has discovered seven new species of peacock spiders that are enchanting even the most extreme arachnophobes.

"They're an incredible species. People are fascinated by them -- including those who hate spiders!" he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Next time someone sees a spider in their kitchen -- even if it is black and scary -- I hope that they might stop and think before they step on it."

Dr Otto collected and photographed the new species along the south coast of Western Australia and South Australia with colleague and spider expert, David Knowles.

He published the findings in the jumping spider journal Peckhamia alongside co-author David Hill, bringing the total number of confirmed peacock spider species within the Maratus gene to 48.

At a tiny size of 2.5 to 5 millimetres in length, they are not easy to find, says Otto, "but when we do, it is truly striking".

And these vivid colours all come down to impressing the ladies.

"Each one of these species has an interesting mating behaviour. The males usually have flaps on the side of the body that they can expand to reveal their colourful, patterned abdomen," said Dr Otto.

"The female sits close to the male and watches him.

"If a female likes a particular colour or variant, she will mate with that male. That is how these beautiful patterns evolve."

Supplied: Yurgen Otto
A male 'Maratus tasmanicus' spider shows off his colourful abdomen.

Supplied: Yurgen Otto
The impressive abdomen of a male 'Maratus bubo' spider.

Supplied: Yurgen Otto
The dance-off begins.

Dr Otto has been chasing these spiders for eleven years. A biologist who studies mites by day, he stumbled on his first peacock spider in 2005 in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

"I was walking through and almost stepped on it," he said.

"So I took a photograph. At that time, there was not a single picture of these spiders anywhere -- it was completely new."

In the last decade, Dr Otto has built an impressive following on his Facebook page and Youtube channel. He hopes his work will continue to steer peoples' perceptions -- and their actions.

"People are thinking about spiders in a different way now.

"Next time someone sees a spider in their kitchen -- even if it is black and scary -- I hope that they might stop and think before they step on it."

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