Peacock Spider With Butt That Looks Like Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night Discovered

A newly-discovered species of peacock spider has been named Maratus constellatus after the Van Gogh masterpiece, The Starry Night.

The brightly-colored arachnid is one of seven new species of peacock spider recently described in a paper published in Zootaxa by Joseph Schubert, Legacy Registration Officer in Entomology and Arachnology at Museums Victoria, in Australia.

In the paper, Schubert says the name M. constellatus was chosen because of the spider's unusual patterning on its abdomen, resembling a starry sky. Constellatus comes from the Latin word for "starry" or "studded with stars." Hence, the English use of the word "constellation" to describe star formations in the night sky.

"I would have to say Maratus constellatus is my favourite by far—it's such a nice looking species, the pattern reminds me of The Starry Night by Van Gogh," Schubert said in a statement. "Plus I traveled a very, very long way to find it!"

"Some of the species in this paper were discovered by citizen scientists who documented the localities and sent images to me—their help is so important for this kind of research," said Schubert.

One of those species is the Maratus suae. The M. suae can be identified by male spiders' iridescent pink abdomen, which is covered in irregularly-shaped red-orange blotches. It was discovered by Sunayana Rammohan, who provided data for the study and has extensively photographed peacock spiders in Western Australia.

This and the six other species described in the paper take the total number of known peacock spiders up to 85, five of which were described by Schubert in 2019.

Maratus constellatus
The newly discovered Maratus constellatus was named after the Van Gogh masterpiece because of its uniquely colored rear. Joseph Schubert

Peacock spiders are members of the Maratus genus endemic to southern Australia and recognizable by the unusually flashy color on males' abdomen. Females are less colorful and tend to be a combination of brown, black and white. According to an article in Current Biology, these arachnids are tiny, measuring between 2 and 6 millimeters long, and can be found across a vast range of habitats from grasslands to sand dunes.

According to the Current Biology article, peacock spiders get their name from the lateral flaps on their abdomen that can be displayed like a fan—or a peacock's tail. Males perform an extravagant courtship dance to attract females, raising the abdomen and moving it in-sync with its third pair of legs. Videos of these dances set to Beyoncé's Single Ladies and Village People's YMCA have gone viral.

"I have been broadly interested in spiders for several years, but the first time I saw a photo of a peacock spider online I could hardly believe something so colorful and small was real," Schubert told Newsweek. "I set out to find one, and I've been hooked ever since the first time I saw one hopping around in the wild."

According to the statement released by the Museums Victoria, Schubert's inspiration for naming the species often came from their unique coloring and the location where they were found. Others were named after people who have offered support to Schubert during his research.

Take, for example, the Maratus laurenaesp, which is named after Lauren Marcianti who provided Schubert with support, encouragement and field assistance. Maratus laurenaesp, like the Maratus constellatus, was discovered in Western Australia.

Maratus laurenaesp
Maratus laurenaesp Joseph Schubert

In contrast, the Maratus azureus ,also found in Western Australia, was named after its blue coloring, from the Latin word for "deep blue."

Maratus inaquosus
Maratus inaquosus Joseph Schubert

The Maratus inaquosus is named after the place it was found—a drought-ridden region of Victoria. Hence its name "inaquosus," Latin for "arid, dry, lacking water."

Maratus inaquosus
Maratus inaquosus Joseph Schubert/Museums Victoria and Bush Blitz Australia

The Maratus noggerup, here performing a courtship dance, is named after its location—it was found approximately 1.2 miles southwest of Noggerup in Western Australia.

Maratus noggerup
Maratus noggerup Joseph Schubert

The Maratus suae is named after the person who discovered it, Sunayana (Su) Rammohan.

Maratus suae
Maratus suae Joseph Schubert

And lastly, Maratus volpei was named after the ecologist Nick Volpe, who provided specimens and photographs of the species. The species was found in Southern Australia.

Maratus volpei
Maratus volpei Nick Volpe

Schubert believes there are many more species of peacock spider to be found: "I don't think we are anywhere near done yet, considering how many species have only recently been discovered and how many sites are yet to be explored—I'm still actively on the hunt for new species of peacock spider."

He told Newsweek: "I won't be surprised if there are in excess of 100 peacock spider species. There are around 40,000 named spider species in the world in total, but some studies estimate that there are around 80,000 spider species that exist!

"This means that we've only currently studied half of them. There is so much that we don't know about spiders which makes them such an interesting group to study."

This article has been updated to include comments from Joseph Schubert.

Peacock Spider With Butt That Looks Like Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night Discovered | Tech & Science