Strange World: Spiders That Kill Other Spiders and Look Like Pelicans

Strange World: Spiders That Kill Other Spiders and Look Like Pelicans

A new species of spider was discovered in the rain forests of Madagascar that make other spiders run away in fear. There aren’t a whole lot of spiders out there that actually prey on other spiders, but the ones that do tend to be terrifying and strange creatures. These spiders are as quick as a cobra and quiet as an owl. They are also the size of a grain of rice, but somehow are the boogiemen of all other spiders in the Madagascar rain forest. Their long jaws, which are more like venomous pikes, make them look somewhat similar to a pelican, and they use them to impale their victims. These spiders could definitely be considered specialists in killing other spiders.

Hannah Wood, the curator of the arachnids and myriapods at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, recently published a study on the newly discovered pelican spider. Wood spent time watching these spiders in the wild and noticed that they are killers of convenience, sometimes simply snatching up another spider as it scurries by them. While they don’t actually build their own webs, the pelican spiders can be found hovering over the lair of another spider, plucking at the strings of their webs to try and lure their prey towards them.

The pelican spider is native to Madagascar, Australia, and South Africa. Their enormous jaws that give them their name have fangs on the end of them. These huge fanged jaws allow them to impale their victims and then hoist them into the air as they let the venom take effect, watching the light slowly fade from all four of their eyes. Wood suspects that their ability to hold them at fangs’ length after they impale them eliminates the possibility that their venomous prey may try to attack them back. She also thinks that pelican spiders are somehow able to follow the silk draglines that spiders leave in their wake as they walk. At night she observed them wandering around waving their two front legs like antennae, possibly searching for these draglines.

Strangely enough these pelican spiders never seem to eat their own species. She even dropped some in a petri dish together to see if they would attack each other, and all the spiders simply stayed away from each other, trying to give their brethren space. This may be due to them possibly being immune to their own venom or being so heavily armored that they know it is pointless to even try attacking each other.

Have you ever seen another spider that preys upon spiders rather than other insects? What features did they have that stood out in particular compared to other spiders?

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