Maratus volans, better known as the Peacock Spider. The brilliant colouring is not just for decoration but also to attract females. The peacock spider has earned its name when he courts with his mate through dancing. Like a peacock, he raises his two magnificently coloured flaps and dances for the female.
These fuzzy little guys, some just a few millimeters in length, have intricate, species-specific dance moves. Not only are they likely displaying their health and vigor to potential mates, but they are also reminding females that they are the same species, so, like “please don’t eat me, hun!”
If you want to learn more about this arachnid tango, head over to Wired and read all about it. If you’d really want to dig in to the science of peacock spider dancing, including the sounds that go along with this eight-legged twerking display, here’s an open-access paper at PLOS One.
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?
That’s the conclusion behind new analysis of cave painting handprints by Penn State’s Dean Snow. Several years ago, a British biologist found that men and women’s hands differed in the relative lengths of their fingers. Men tended to have a ring finger that was longer than their index finger (although I do not).
When Snow applied that pattern to the measurements of handprints found in prehistoric cave art (similar to the example above from France’s legendary Chauvet Cave), he found that the pattern more closely resembled female hand ratios. Were our first artists women?
It’s an intriguing hypothesis, but there are alternative explanations. Perhaps these handprints belonged to adolescent boys, sneaking into dangerous caves and doing a little “five-finger graffiti”? As more cave handprints are analyzed, perhaps the dusty picture will become a little bit clearer.
The ultimate question, of course, is why did they draw such things? No handprint can tell that story, buried in history, hidden in the dark shadows of ancient caves.
Oh, and I command you to watch Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It’s a dream journey back in time, through the lens of cave art.
(more on the handprints at National Geographic)