These Terrifying Spider Assassins Look Like Weird Pelicans

Image: Hannah Wood via ZooKeys

A recent study has unveiled 18 new species of deadly spiders that have an uncanny resemblance to pelicans — with elongated jaws that they use to impale their opponents.

Assassin spiders or pelican spiders? The spiders commonly go by both names, but either way, they are serious threats to other spiders that happen to be in the vicinity. They track their prey by stalking their silk draglines and hover over other spiders’ webs, forcing them into an encounter. Once a target is near enough, an assassin spider will reach out with its spiked appendage and completely impale its opponent before it even has a chance to react. After they’ve “hooked” their prey, they will inject powerful venom into them and watch as their life fades away.

Assassin Spider Captures Another Spider

One amazing characteristic? Although they prey exclusively on spiders, pelican spiders never go after one of their own — an impressive show of loyalty for such a vicious species.

Image: Robert Whyte / Greg Anderson, Wikimedia Commons

The newly discovered species are part of an ancient family of spiders called Archaeidae and are virtually unchanged from fossils dating back 165 million years. While assassin spiders can also be found in Australia and South Africa, these 18 new species were discovered in Madagascar, confirming the area’s unique diversity and the possibility of still undiscovered species there.

The new species were described in 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,” stated scientist Michael Rix to National Geographic.

It is also a reminder that these species require protection, as habitat loss is an ongoing concern. Even the deadliest assassins could benefit from increased conservation efforts.

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