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Meet Nemo, the peacock spider

Kamahl Cogdon, March 28, 2021 3:00PM Kids News

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The Nemo peacock spider has been named after the clownfish from Finding Nemo. Picture: Museums Victoria media_cameraThe Nemo peacock spider has been named after the clownfish from Finding Nemo. Picture: Museums Victoria

animals

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A newly discovered species of peacock spider with a bright orange face has been named after the clownfish from hit animated* movie Finding Nemo.

The Nemo peacock spider is just the size of a grain of rice but is a big deal to Museums Victoria arachnologist* Joseph Schubert, who has released new research describing the species in international life science journal Evolutionary Systematics.

“It has a really vibrant orange face with white stripes on it, which kind of looks like a clownfish, so I thought Nemo would be a really suitable name for it,” Mr Schubert said.

media_cameraThe Nemo peacock spider is about the size of a grain of rice. Picture: Museums Victoria
media_cameraA clownfish on the east coast of Australia. Picture: ABC TV

The Nemo peacock spider was discovered by citizen scientist Sheryl Holliday near Mount Gambier in South Australia.

Ms Holliday is an ecological* field officer for Nature Glenelg Trust and posted photographs of some of the spiders she found onto a peacock spider appreciation* page on Facebook.

Mr Schubert saw the photographs and contacted Ms Holliday, who then who sent him some live specimens* in the post so he could study them.

“It’s really important that citizen scientists get out there and are looking for things because scientists like myself can’t be everywhere at once,” Mr Schubert said.

“Roughly only 30 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity* has been formally documented scientifically, so this means we could be losing species before we even knew that they existed.”

media_cameraCitizen scientist Sheryl Holliday discovered the Nemo peacock spider near Mount Gambier, South Australia. Picture: Terry Thorne

Peacock spiders, which have the scientific name Maratus, are found in backyards across Australia.

To the eye, they often appear as brownish, hopping specks. But their amazing true colours and behaviours are revealed under a microscope or macro lens* of a camera.

Some have vivid* colours of purple, green or red, and patterns and shapes that can look like elephant heads, arrows or skeletons.

Their jumping movements are actually an elaborate* dance, with the male using his movements to try to attract a female — making them an internet hit, especially when music is added to video footage!

media_cameraThis colourful species of peacock spider is called Maratus speciosus. Picture: Jurgen Otto

The Nemo peacock spider, scientifically known as Maratus nemo, is the 92nd species of peacock spider discovered.

Mr Schubert, 23, has scientifically described 13 new species of peacock spiders, including seven last year.

“I think peacock spiders have captured the public’s attention because they’re really, really cute,” Mr Schubert said.

“They’ve got these massive forward-facing eyes and you can kind of relate to them more than you could like a huntsman.”

Mr Schubert believes there are more undiscovered peacock spiders out there.

“We’re just starting to scratch the surface. I’m actively looking for new species,” he said.

Nemo the peacock spider

GLOSSARY

  • animated: made using drawings or cartoons
  • arachnologist: scientist who studies spiders
  • ecological: to do with living things and their environment
  • appreciation: enjoyment of something
  • specimens: individual examples of a species
  • biodiversity: variety of plant and animal life
  • macro lens: for shooting big close-ups
  • vivid: bright, lively
  • elaborate: complex, having many parts

EXTRA READING

‘Spider-Man’ identifies seven new peacock spiders

Three disco-dancing peacock spiders found

Earth’s insect numbers shrink over 30 years

QUICK QUIZ

  1. How big is the Nemo peacock spider?
  2. What is the scientific name for peacock spiders?
  3. Who was the citizen scientist who found the Nemo peacock spider?
  4. Where did she find it?
  5. How many species of peacock spiders have been found?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Be a citizen scientist
Mr Schubert encouraged “citizen scientists” to get out there to look for things, so let’s give it a try! With your teacher’s permission, explore your school grounds, looking for living creatures. When you find something interesting, spend some time observing and taking notes. If you have a device available, take a photograph of the creature. 

Back at your classroom, create a profile about your chosen creature that includes a photo, its name (if known or name it yourself), a description of its appearance, behaviour and habitat, as well as anything else you noticed.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

2. Extension
Just for fun – imagine and draw your own made-up species of peacock spider, based on another famous character of your choice. For example, Mickey mouse peacock spider, Mario peacock spider, etc.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article. Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension
Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

Extra Reading in animals