Jurgen Otto

Male peacock spiders attract mates through elaborate dances that show off their brilliant colors. It’s hard to miss the dazzling blues, reds, and oranges on their abdomens. But how are the colors so vibrant?

The key appears to be “superblack” patches on the arachnid’s abdomen. Scientists examined these patches on two types of peacock spiders (Maratus speciosus and M. karrie, pictured) using an electron microscope and hyperspectral imaging, which can capture an image’s colors in extreme detail. They found that the patches are made up of an array of small, tightly packed bumps called microlenses. These microlenses reflect less than 0.5% of light, thus eliminating any highlights in the black and making the other nearby colors appear far brighter—even glowing, researchers report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This surface of microlenses is remarkably similar to that of humanmade solar panels, scientists note. These superblack patches are also seen in birds-of-paradise and are key in their mating dance, suggesting they may be common in nature.

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