18 New Pelican Spider Species Discovered In Madagascar

Posted: Jan 13 2018, 8:06am CST | by , Updated: Jan 13 2018, 8:10am CST, in Latest Science News


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18 New Pelican Spider Species Discovered in Madagascar
Credit: Hannah Wood, Smithsonian

With long neck and beak-like structure, the spiders look remarkably similar to birds

In the rainforests of Madagascar, researchers have discovered 18 new species of spiders. The thing that makes those spiders special is that they look similar to bird pelican.

The first pelican spider was discovered in 1854. It was found preserved inside 50 million-year-old amber and had long neck and mouth parts resembling bird’s beak. The spider was thought to be extinct until living pelican spiders were found in Madagascar in 1881. Because these spiders live in remote parts of the world, they remained largely unnoticed until now.

When an arachnids and myriapods curator Hannah Wood at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History analyzed hundreds of pelican spiders both from field and museum collections, she was able to identify 26 different species of pelican spiders. Of those, 18 were totally new to science.

All 26 pelican spider species have been described in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Zookeys.

“The discovery and description of 18 new species is an exciting reminder of the diversity of life on Earth and what still remains to be found.” Michael Rix, who studies Australia’s pelican spiders at the Queensland Museum, told National Geographic.

Not only do pelican spiders appear unusual, they behave differently too. These spiders mostly hunt at night and use their long "necks" and jaw-like mouthparts to prey on other spiders. When a pelican spider finds a prey, it swiftly reaches out and injects venom into its body using fangs. Then it holds the prey away from its body and protects itself from potential counterattacks, until the venom takes effect and the victim dies.

Unlike many spider species, pelican spiders do not spin web, but they are often found lurking in other spider’s lair.

“They wander through the forest at night…They’re kind of like these little wolves in the forest capturing other spiders.” Hannah Wood said.

In addition to Madagascar, pelican spiders have also been spotted in South Africa and Australia and researchers believe there are going to be many more pelican spider species that haven't yet been described or documented.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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