18 new species of spiders that look like pelicans

PelicanSpider2

After finally reaching the edge of another spider's web, pelican spiders can wait for hours for the right time to strike (earning them the moniker "assassin spiders"). The pelican spiders are actually very tiny and are as long as a grain of rice.

Entomologist Hannah Wood, who authored the paper about the discovery in the journal Zookeys, said on Thursday that about 18 new species of pelican spiders, or Eriauchenius workmani, had been found in Madagascar. This, combined with its mouthparts - which are lengthened into folding, salad tong-like abominations - give the spider a profile that evokes the gawkiness of a pelican. As their victim struggles and potentially tries to attack their captor, the pelican spider keeps them at arm's length as they die from an injection of deadly venom.

Flora and fauna hide some of the most diverse species ever discovered. "These spiders attest to the unique biology that diversified in Madagascar", Wood said in a press release. Also known as assassin spiders, they are found in Australia, South Africa - and Madagascar, where researchers have recently discovered 18 new species. Although discovering and studying new species in Madagascar is hard due to the island's remote conditions, it is no secret that many species found on Madagascar live nowhere else. Madagascar sits at the heart of the pelican spider's ancestral origins, and Wood and study coauthor Nikolaj Scharff think it's likely that the spiders have had a dynamic evolutionary history in isolation.

The discovery drives home just how much native biodiversity may remain undiscovered in Madagascar. Also known as "assassin spiders", pelican spiders mostly follow their prey at night and perform the attack with the part of the mouth with fangs. The Pelican spiders are spiders that eat other spiders.

Out of the 26 spiders that she sorted out, 18 species were found to be completely new ones which have never been seen before.

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Because Madagascar's wildlife is so poorly studied, the California Academy of Sciences launched an arthropod inventory in 2000, filling it with spiders and other invertebrates collected from throughout the island.

Because the living spiders were found after their ancestors had been uncovered as fossils and presumed extinct, they can be considered a "Lazarus" taxon, risen from the dead.

Pelican spiders have barely changed through the evolution.

Wood examined collections from expeditions to the island and her own fieldwork, making detailed measurements and observations of their physical and ecological characteristics, trying to piece together their interrelationships and their place in the local environment. The new species add to scientists' understanding of that diversity, and will help them investigate how pelican spiders' unusual traits have evolved. It also highlights the importance of protecting Madagascar as a spot of untapped potential for discovering new species.

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