Maratus harrisi, NSW variety
This beautiful little spider was first photographed by Stuart Harris (flickr name beeater). He posted it on flickr a few years ago under the name "Intricate beauty", but what he did not know was that this little creature was in fact new to science and was likely to have colourful flaps (not visible in his photo) that he would display to a female. To find out whether it indeed had such flaps, and what they looked like, and to scientifically describe this species we needed another specimen. I went down to Booroomba Rocks (5 hrs drive), thinking that I would find a whole bunch of them. Well, wishful thinking !. I found nothing despite going back several times. Stuart himself spent 145 hours searching but no sign of the little critter. I had already given up any hope of ever seeing this animal, let alone photographing its display, but Stuart doesn't give up. One afternoon he called me and told me he had finally found a specimen, so he did. I rushed down to Canberra, picked it up and later that day tried to make it display to a female of a different species. Risky business, females can develop an appetite for males and I did not want to have this specimen gobbled up before it could be scientifically described. I had a few more heart-stopping moments when my little friend decided to make a runner and I had to turn the house upside down to find the 4.8 mm creature. Well, in the end it all worked out. This species is now scientifically described and is called Maratus harrisi. The little fellow is saved in 70% ethanol and will find his place on the shelf of the Australian museum where he will be forever the type specimen of this species.
If you are interested in the scientific description (done by me and David Hill) you can download it here peckhamia.com/numbers.html
It is number 96.1
The whole story is not only one of dedication and persistence but also of how flickr and the internet has made it possible to pull something like this off.

For a front page story by the Canberra Times on this species and its discovery go to
www.canberratimes.com.au/environment/how-amateurs-discove...
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