It's Alive

Pelican spiders: slow, safe assassins

By
8:30am, March 9, 2014

View the video

Spiders, thank goodness, haven’t evolved assassin drones. But the specialized hunters of the family Archaeidae can kill at a distance.

It’s a distance of only a few millimeters. But that’s substantial for these teensy dramas, and enough space to let a group called pelican spiders bring down their wary and dangerous prey: other spiders.

The pelican name comes from their profiles. “They look like little birds,” says Hannah Wood of the University of California, Davis. The spider’s body is about the size of a grain of rice, with a front segment that has evolved into a stretched “neck” with a little round “head” on top. (The mouth is actually at the bottom of the “neck”). And a pair of jawlike fanged projections called chelicerae folds down against the neck, where a pelican would tuck its beak.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from Science News