Scientists discover new assassin spider species in Madagascar


Scientists conducting research in Madagascar have discovered 18 new spider-killing spider species.

The 'assassin' spiders are called pelican spiders because of the way their jaws resemble the seabirds' beak. With a length between two and eight millimeters, the assassin spider hunts other spiders while they wait for their pray.

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.

"They simply snatch another spider as its scurries by. While pelican spiders don't spin webs, sometimes you'll find them hovering over another spider's lair. They pluck at the web to get their prey to come to them," said Wood.

"Originally from Madagascar, Australia and South Africa, the pelicans' gigantic jaw have fangs allowing the predator to stab their victims and rise them into the air as if on a meat hook all while the venom takes effect," she said

"They are kind of like these little wolves in the forest capturing other spiders," she added.

Wood noted that as with most things, this hunch has yet to be tested experimentally with pelican spiders themselves, saying she has not yet seen a pelican spider eat one of its own.

Michael Rix, who studies Australia's pelican spiders at the Queensland Museum, said "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."

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