Updated: Oct 25
Almost 10 years ago, I became obsessed with wanting to find an ant mimicking jumping spider. I had no idea if they occurred in my area but I started looking anyway. On one of my outings, I noticed something jump near a line of ants and thought "Yes, found one!". I got on my knees, zoomed in and ...... I couldn't believe what I saw. An iridescent blue jumping spider with slashes of red. Oddly enough, I knew I'd just found a Peacock Spider, the ones that were becoming quite an internet sensation. I was blown away that they would be in my area. I was also in awe of how small they were, this one being about 5mm long. I got home, downloaded my images from my camera to my pc and in no time I was able to give it a name. Maratus volans, the Flying Peacock Spider. Pictured below is that very first one.
I returned to that area in the National Park (in Victoria, Australia) many times, just to see these guys. However, not long after I was searching at home for something else when I noticed a bright little spider. I was stunned, another Peacock Spider and this time on our own place! It turned out to be Maratus pavonis. These are even smaller than M. volans, at around 4mm. Again, I revisited that same little area, thinking that's the only place they'd be found. How wrong I was, I have subsequently found them over most of our 11.5 acre property and have even had them in the house. In fact, they're extremely common on our patio and around the house.
As with most things, the more you look, the more you find. Soon we found even more species. In fact, we now have recorded 7 described and at least 4 undescribed species on our place alone (I've found other species elsewhere). Some are even smaller again, such as the stunningly beautiful Maratus hesperus, at 3mm. While the first specimen we found here was on the patio, the one pictured below was actually hopping around on our kitchen bench.
It should be noted that not all species are as colourful as the ones shown above but they will all display, usually so as to attract the attention of a female, or, in a few cases, as a territorial thing to see other males. A few years had passed when I decided it really was time to find one displaying. This takes patience and luck. First, you need to sit and wait for a male and a female to get close enough and then hope you are in the right position to get shots. I managed to tick off that ambition within 3 years of seeing my first specimen and I've now seen at least 6 species do their fancy dance. Pictured below is the first one I was able to photograph, which was Maratus volans again (it helps when you have 100's of them available just outside your door)
Now for the good and bad news. The good news is that they really aren't that hard to find. Whilst they are found in a variety of habitats, the best place to start looking is among leaf litter and twigs out in the bush. Just find a suitable spot and sit and wait. If noting shows in ten minutes or so, move on a bit. It's amazing how you can be sitting there for a while and see none and then suddenly, there's several within a metre or two of you. The bad news? Maratus are only found in Australia and the bulk of them are down the East coast and across the South of the continent. They seem to be largely absent from really arid areas, despite many liking warm and dry conditions. But if you live in the areas just mentioned, get out and have a look, I won't be the least bit surprised if you find one. In fact, you'll likely find a heap of them!