Since the launch of a certain raunchy-but-sciencey series last week, one topic has been dominating office conversations around here: animal sex. How it's done. How often. In what freakishly bizarre way. Of course, before any sex can actually be had, there is the small matter of convincing a potential partner of your desirability as a mate. And out of all of the wonderful ways you could do this, one in particular is a sexy tango dip ahead of the rest. You can make like the peacock spider ... and dance.

The fancy pre-coital footwork of this specific arachnid was pretty much unknown to the world until the release of this PLoS ONE paper and amazing associated videos by Jürgen Otto.

Clearly, for Maratus volans, killer dance moves are the key to successful courtship. But it's also important to have been blessed in the genetic lottery, since the size and impressiveness of your, ahem, flap, might just be the difference between a steamy mating session and a lonely night back at the web. During courtship, the (often very colourful) abdominal flaps stand to attention and then vibrate (much like the tail of the spider's namesake, the peacock). Ornamented third legs also do some up-and-down jiving. Males with the best flaps and the best moves often win the day. And if you lose the contest for the female's attention, you must hang up your flap in shame and retreat. 

As every male should know, arousal is about engaging all of the female's senses – which is why the spiders also rely on some good vibrations. All of their foot-tapping and flap-flapping is designed to transmit secret vibratory signals to the female (which the paper's researchers managed to intercept using a fancy-sounding technique called laser vibrometry). It's wooing expertise to be envious of ... all the more so given the spider's really tiny size.

2012 11 27 Peacock Spiders 01
Image credit: Jurgen Otto, Flickr

Also check out the sexy moves in slow motion and this more in-depth explanation of the courtship ritual.