Science

Scientists find 18 new spider species that look like pelicans

In a new study, scientists have discovered 18 new species of pelican spiders. The Pelican spiders are spiders that eat other spiders. Although the name is pelican, this group of spiders is not massive, and they do not eat fish. The pelican spiders are actually very tiny and are as long as a grain of rice. They belong to the family Archaeidae and pose a threat to other spiders.

These extremely rare species of spiders are found in the remote areas of Madagascar. But the latest study has revealed that a team of scientists has found new species of spider eating pelican spiders which indicate that the pelican spider species are not that rare as it was previously thought. The latest study was led by veteran aranchologist Hannah Wood of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Wood analyzed and scrutinized more than hundreds of pelican spiders both from field research in Madagascar and from the pelican spiders kept preserved in museum. Her research mainly focused on spiders of Madagascarchaea and Eriauchenius.

Out of the 26 spiders that she sorted out, 18 species were found to be completely new ones which have never been seen before. Wood was accompanied by colleague Nikolaj Scharff of the University of Copenhagen to carry out a detailed research of those 18 new species of spiders. The new species of pelican spiders have same elongated neck and beak-like pincers or chelicerae like other pelican spiders. The study authors said that pelican spiders are not only famous for their unusual appearance but the way they prey on other spiders with the long “necks” and jaw-like mouthparts, is quite fascinating. Wood said, “These spiders attest to the unique biology that diversified in Madagascar.”

The study informed that the pelican spiders are active hunters and they reach to their spider prey swiftly with the help of long silk draglines. Then they pierce the body of the victim using their long, fang-tipped “jaws,” or chelicerae. Their powerful jaws and long necks help them keep safe distance from any potential counterattack from the victim until it dies. Wood informed that pelican spiders have a long history and their ancestors lived as long as 165 million years ago as per the fossil records. So, she calls the present day pelican spiders as living fossils. The researchers analyzed the anatomy of the 26 different species of pelican spiders under a microscope and specifically looked at their genitals. After analyzing the genitals, the scientists confirmed that they have discovered 18 new species of spider eating pelican spiders.

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