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A spider that hunts other spiders: 18 new species of this bizarre Madagascar arachnid are unveiled

Sean Greene, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Fossilized pelican spiders have shorter necks and jaws than their modern-day descendants. As the spiders' features stretched out, they were able to take advantage of a new and dangerous prey: other spiders.

If that's not weird enough, consider this: Their heads are stretched into a tubular structure that gives the appearance of a separate "head" and "neck." The spiders' mouths are actually below the "neck."

The head-like bulb is loaded with muscles to power their highly maneuverable jaws, which they use to impale their prey.

"Other spiders can potentially harm them (with) venom or silk," Wood said. "Essentially, they're attacking their prey at a distance and keeping it very far away until it's dead."

Pelican spiders may sound intimidating, but they're actually afraid of anything that isn't their potential prey.

"I've never been bit by one," Wood said. "They're going to be very scary if you're another spider, but for everything else they're just going to drop to the ground. They're not fighters at all."

 

In Madagascar, the pelican spiders live far from humans in pristine mountaintop rainforests. But the island has lost a large amount of its forests to logging and rice farming, threatening its diverse array of life.

"I'm very certain we already lost numerous pelican spiders that we never knew existed," Wood said.

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