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New dancing spider named for dancing icon

Queensland Museum scientist Dr Barbara Baehr has paid tribute to one of the world’s most iconic dancers, Li Cunxin, by naming a new species of peacock spider in his honour.

Despite having a brilliant blue streak, Maratus licunxin is hard to spot at less than four millimetres long, but get close enough and you will be awed by its dance moves and spectacular body.

Queensland Museum CEO and Director Professor Suzanne Miller said the peacock spider is just one of more than 4,000 species described by Queensland Museum scientists, including more than 600 spiders described by Dr Baehr.

“Each and every day Queensland Museum scientists are describing new species that are found around the country, from tiny peacock spiders like Maratus licunxin to dinosaurs such as the iconic Muttaburrasaurus,” Dr Miller said.

The tiny but impressive spider was found at Carnarvon Station by Queensland Museum scientist Dr Barbara Baehr as part of a Bush Blitz Expedition.

Dr Baehr said she was inspired to name the spider in honour of Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin after a visit to the ballet with her daughter. “As I sat and watched Queensland Ballet’s latest performance, I thought it was stunning, with a fairy-tale like essence that was so marvellous and sweet that it reminded me so much of the dancing of the peacock spiders,” she said. “It was then I decided I should name the spider after Li Cunxin and his magnificent dancing skills, much like that of the peacock spider.”

Known for their colourful abdomen, these stunning jumping spiders, which are endemic to Australia, have become an internet sensation over the past five years due to their intricate mating ritual which involves vigorous leg waving.

Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin said he was honoured to have a dancing spider named after him. “This beautiful dancing Queensland spider is in good company alongside the Queensland Ballet dancers,” he said. “After watching its elaborate dance, I can see why Dr Baehr was inspired by the graceful dancers in our Company. It is certainly heart-warming to know that our dancers can provide such inspiration to an individual and speaks volumes about the power of this beautiful art form,” he said.