Everyone knows that Australia is home to some of the world's scariest and most poisonous spiders. It turns out it's also got the world's cutest spiders. Yes, spiders really can be cute, as these species of peacock spiders, with nicknames like Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, prove.

Even committed arachnophobes would fall in love these critters with just one look at their brightly-coloured faces. Except, of course, they're not faces. They're actually flaps on the male spider's abdomen that it can unfurl to attract a mate in a courtship dance.

peacock spiders
Maratus mungaich, from near Perth in Western Australia Jürgen Otto

Although they may look huge in these photos, they're actually tiny. "They are 3 to 5 millimetres in length and people simply don't expect such beauty and complexity from something that small, let alone something that is a spider," says Jürgen Otto, a biologist at the Australian Department of Agriculture.

Not much was known about peacock spiders before Otto began documenting them in 2008, yet they're not rare. He says: "They occur from Melbourne all along the coast into northern Queensland. They can be observed close to all major population centres: Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, as well as Perth in the west."

There are now 58 known species of peacock spider. We feature some of them in this gallery. You can see more of Jürgen Otto's great photos of them on his Flickr site. You can also learn more about them at his Facebook page, and there are some amazing videos on his Peacockspiderman YouTube channel.

peacock spiders
Maratus speciosus, or Coastal Peacock spider. The orange hairs are only visible during its display. One of the most striking species in the genus Maratus, it can be found in metropolitan Perth Jürgen Otto
peacock spiders
Maratus volans. Jürgen Otto was the first to film this spider\'s mating dance (see video below) Jürgen Otto