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New Aussie Spiders Are The Size Of A Rice Grain, And Harmless

Apparently, not every animal in Australia wants to kill you.

That's according to one spider expert, who says three newly discovered species of peacock spiders are "completely harmless" to humans.

The Maratus aquilus, Maratus felinus and Maratus combustus have just been officially named, after being found and hand-collected in the Lake Jasper and Mount Romance regions of southwestern Australia.

Monash University Research Assistant Joseph Schubert, a spider taxonomist, dubbed the new species after they were discovered by a group of photographers at Project Maratus.

The tiny critters are only the length of a single grain of rice, he said, but that's exactly what makes them such an amazing find.

"They're incredibly, small but so charismatic and so colourful," Schubert told 10 daily.

Schubert has published the findings in Zootaxa -- a scientific journal for animal taxonomists -- where he details their unique physical features.

The etymology of the name aquilus refers to markings on the spider which resemble an eagle's face as seen from the front, while the felinus species gets its name from markings which resemble a cat.

The combustus, meanwhile, was named for its markings that he said resembled a "fiery explosion".

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Schubert said peacock spiders can be identified by the pattern on their abdomen -- unlike other spiders, whose identifying characteristics come from their fangs or hair.

"Each species has a specific pattern that is different on their abdomen," he explained.

Peacock spiders are well known for their amazing courtship displays, where the male spider performs a dance to get the attention of the females.

Maratus tasmanicus. The spiders are roughly the size of a grain of rice. Image: Supplied (Joseph Schubert)

But while many would shudder at the thought of an eight-legged creature, Schubert insists the species cannot hurt humans because they're too small to bite us.

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And contrary to what most people think, there's only a handful of spider species in Australia that pose a significant danger to humans, he explained.

"Fear of creepy crawlies in Australia is somewhat irrational," he added.

You can probably trust him -- Schubert admits to being an arachnophobe, before buying a tarantula to tackle his fear, and later taking the new-found interest into his career.

Maratus Acquilus (Image: Supplied/Michael Doe)

"Realistically spiders are hunting prey half their size... it’s not viable for them to go out and hunt humans".

The newly discovered trio brings the total number of described peacock spiders to 74, of which 29 are found exclusively in south-west Australia.

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au

Featured Image: Image: Supplied (Joseph Schubert) ‏