Adorable Rainbow Peacock Spiders Could Help Improve Instruments In Space!


New Delhi: Scientists have revealed that the ability of some spiders to produce a rainbow of colours no their bodies may help humans make advances in the field of optics.

As reported in a new Nature Communications study, an international team of researchers has been closely examining two miniature Australian peacock spiders: the rainbow peacock spider Maratus robinsoni and Maratus chrysomelas.

These tiny peacock spiders which don’t grow longer than 5 millimeters, are famous for its intricate body colorations and courtship patterns. They also have large eyes, which are necessary for good color vision, and which also make them look extremely cute.

Male rainbow peacock spiders (Maratus robinsoni) have an intense rainbow-iridescent coloring on their back to signal courtship displays to females. As far as scientists are aware, it’s the first instance in nature of males using an entire rainbow of colors to entice females.

How do they produce these colours?

The scientists used a diverse array of tools and techniques, such as light and electron microscopy and imaging scatterometry to arrive at the origin of the signal - specialized abdominal scales on the spider’s body.

It turns out that these spiders are armed with novel scales that coat their abdomens. As well as being curved in highly specific ways, the scales also appear to be adorned with a grate-like pattern, one that diffracts (bends) waves of light.

The scales are covered in nanoscale diffraction grating structures which, in conjunction with the scales’ microscopic curvature, separate light into its component wavelengths.

The spiders’ scales function similar to a prism in order to produce much finer angles and smaller distances than currently possible with man-made technology.


Potential Applications

The interaction between the surface and the curve of the scales enables separation and isolation of light into its component wavelengths at finer angles and smaller distances than are possible with current manmade engineering technologies.

Inspiration from these super iridescent scales can be used to overcome current limitations in spectral manipulation.

This can reduce the size of optical spectrometers for applications in a very small package, notably instruments on space missions, or wearable chemical detection systems.

And it could have a wide array of implications to fields ranging from life sciences and biotechnologies to material sciences and engineering.




Hsiung, B., Siddique, R., Stavenga, D., Otto, J., Allen, M., Liu, Y., Lu, Y., Deheyn, D., Shawkey, M. and Blackledge, T. (2017). Rainbow peacock spiders inspire miniature super-iridescent optics. Nature Communications, 8(1).


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