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Male Jumping Spiders: New Species Plays Peek-a-Boo To Woo Mates

Jan 19, 2016 04:15 PM EST
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Males of a newly discovered Australian species of jumping spiders – subsequently named Jotus remus – woos prospective mates by playing peek-a-boo, researchers from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Sydney, reveal in a new study. These small spiders appear to hide just of out of sight, waving their paddle-shaped legs in and out of view to catch a female's eye. 

Female spiders are known to be rather aggressive towards their mates, so researchers suggest this playful mating strategy may be a male's way of avoiding attack while locating a receptive female.

Researcher Jürgen Otto came across these spiders last year while studying in New South Wales. In his latest study, he paired spiders on opposite sides of a leaf and recorded the interesting courtship display. Virgin females, he noted, became calm and placid almost immediately after spotting the male's paddle-shaped leg appear over the edge of the leaf.

"It only took a couple of minutes for them to mate," Otto said in a statement.

On the other hand, females who had previously mated attacked the spider's paddle for long periods without mating; the game ended when party gave up or the female left. His findings dispute previous beliefs which suggested the purpose of playing peek-a-boo was to tire a female enough to keep her from acting aggressive during mating Otto confirmed that virginity plays a much larger role in whether or not females are receptive to a male's playful invitation to mate.

"The cat-and-mouse game [sometimes] goes on for hours," Otto added, according to New Scientist. "I don't know of any other spider with paddles like these, or with such behavior."

Male jumping spiders posses eight legs but only the third set of front legs are adorned with these ornamental feather-like paddles; they are also longer than the rest, researchers say. 

These tiny spiders grow just 5.6 mm long and males are elaborately colored with black and white bands, while females are a drab brown color. The exact range of this species is not yet known. 

"It might be that it's unique to the mountaintop area where I found it, but who knows?" Otto concluded.

His findings were recently published in the journal Peckhamia.

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