The Australian peacock spider named after Mao's Last Dancer

Maratus Licunxin. Image: Queensland Museum

A dancing spider discovered in Queensland has been named after Li Cunxin, who wrote the autobiography Mao’s Last Dancer.

The new peacock spider, Maratus licunxin, has a brilliant blue streak but is hard to spot because it is so small, at less than four millimetres long.

These Australian jumping spiders with colourful abdomens have become an internet sensation because of their intricate mating ritual of vigorous leg waving.

Li Cunxin and Dr Barbara Baehr. Image: Queensland University

Dr Barbara Baehr of the Queensland Museum found the spider at Carnarvon Station and was inspired to name it in honour of Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin after a visit to the ballet with her daughter.

“As I sat and watched Queensland Ballet’s latest performance, I thought it was stunning, with a fairy-tale like essence that was so marvellous and sweet that it reminded me so much of the dancing of the peacock spiders,” she says.

Li Cunxin says he’s honoured to have a dancing spider named after him.

“This beautiful dancing Queensland spider is in good company alongside the Queensland Ballet dancers,” he says.

“After watching its elaborate dance, I can see why Dr Baehr was inspired by the graceful dancers in our company.”

A peacock spider, Maratus Ottoi. Image Michael Duncan

This peacock spider is just one of over 4000 species described by Queensland Museum scientists, including over 600 spiders by Dr Baehr.

The latest is one of more than 200 new spider species discovered as part of Australia’s largest species discovery program Bush Blitz, a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia.

The program has discovered over 1,100 new species since 2010 including spiders, moths, true bugs and even plants.

The scientific paper describing Maratus licunxin has been published in the journal Zootaxa.

Watch peacock spiders make their moves:

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