A Sydney scientist has discovered seven new species of the tiny Australian peacock spider — a spectacularly coloured, three-millimetre arachnid that dances to attract a female mate.

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A juvenile specimen of the recently-discovered Australian Peacock spider, Maratus Albus, sits on the nib of a pencil in this undated picture taken in Western Australia's Nuytsland Nature Reserve. The spiders are just three millimetres long when fully grown. (Jurgen Otto via Reuters)

Jurgen Otto, with the help of colleague David Knowles, made the two latest discoveries of the miniature creatures while 
looking for other spiders in Western Australia in November and had all seven named in the scientific journal Peckhamia last month.

'They are cute, they are colourful, they remind people of their own cat.' - Jurgen Otto, scientist

"They are very, very colourful, they often have iridescent scales and they do something quite remarkable. They perform a courtship dance for females, to impress them," Otto told Reuters TV on Monday.

While footage of the dances is proving popular online, some female peacock spiders end up eating the colourful males if they are not impressed by the courtship.

The discovery of the new spiders means there are now 48 known species, found mostly in southern Australia and which range in size from three to five millimetres. Juveniles measure just half-a-millimetre.

The Sydney scientist, who studies mites during the day, developed a passion for the tiny spiders in 2005 after 
discovering an arachnid on a photograph he took following a  bushwalk in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, New South Wales.

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This new peacock spider species, Maratus Lobatus, brings the total number of known species to 48. (Jurgen Otto via Reuters)

Otto said the dancing spiders, who offer no threat to humans, were even proving popular with arachnophobes.

"They are harmless, they are cute, they are colourful, they remind people of their own cat. I often compare them with 
kittens with too many legs, so really people get excited when they see them," he said.

"People who hate spiders confess that they actually can't help loving these ones and in time this will just change the 
opinions people have of spiders, I hope."

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The Australian Peacock Spider, Maratus Australis, is one of 7 new species. The male spiders perform a courtship dance for females to impress them. (Jurgen Otto via Reuters)