Brightly colored Australian peacock spiders (Maratus spp.) captivate even the most arachnophobic viewers with their flamboyant courtship displays featuring diverse and intricate body colorations, patterns and movements – all packed into miniature bodies measuring less than 5 mm in size for many species. However, these displays aren’t just pretty to look at, they also inspire new ways for humans to produce color in technology.
One species of peacock spider – the rainbow peacock spider (Maratus robinsoni) – is particularly impressive, because it showcases an intense rainbow iridescent signal in males’ courtship displays to the females. This is the first known instance in nature of males using an entire rainbow of colors to entice females to mate. But how do males make their rainbows?