Ain’t science grand? Millions of years after creatures lived on earth, we find them frozen in time and learn all their little secrets. Take this previously unknown arachnid (spider) “harvestman” species some scientist found in what is Burma today. According to National Geographic, a publication reporting on a paper published in The Science of Nature, Halitherses grimaldii, was in the saddle, or at least getting ready to mount, when he got caught, and forever preserved as an example of spider porn:
We know about this H. grimaldii‘s particular package because, as announced last Thursday in The Science of Nature, he died fully aroused, his tree-side tryst interrupted by oozing resin that entombed his body in what’s now a lump of amber.
“It must have been in an amorous state to have it out like this,” says Ron Clouse of the American Museum of Natural History, who wasn’t involved with the study. “This poor animal.”
In the fascinating world of creepy crawly sex (no, this does not mean the weirdo peeping tom down the street), as it happens, harvestmen, the arachnid group that gives us daddy long legs, actually have penises. According to the article, they are about half the length of the body and deposit their payload the way other animals do into their lady friends’ genitals.
Since there was no actual partner preserved in the amber with this horny spider, it is assumed that she either escaped (lucky girl) or the erection was caused by the stress of being caught in tree sap. Doesn’t matter. To the people who actually are into fossilized spider porn, this is an important discovery, because they are in the throes of trying to sort out the harvestmen family tree.
However, evolution has caused many harvestmen to look the same, so it’s often hard to tell who’s really related to whom. “It’s messy,” says Clouse.
“Different families, and even species, [of harvestmen] can have a characteristic penis shape,” he says. “In fact, [penises] are often even more important than the shape of the body and legs.”…
careful 3-D scans and photographs of the H. grimaldii fossil show that its penis’ distinctive shape—from the heart-shaped head to its twirled tip—are different from other species’, placing the harvestman in its very own family.
Imagine that, daddy long legs spiders can be identified by their penises. This is definitely information needed for the next trivia night, or science quiz at my nephew’s school.