There’s good and bad news for all the people with arachnophobia. A new discovery in Asia has shed light on the appearance and capabilities of spiders almost 100 million years ago. Both spiders are dead. That’s the good news. The bad news is that scientists believe spiders with similarly large horns and hooked fangs are alive today in the jungles of Asia.
The two spiders were found in Burmese amber three years ago. If you’re looking for a parallel, think about the mosquitoes from Jurassic Park and how everyone was thrilled when they dug up an insect in fossilized tree sap. Same deal with these real life spiders. The newly discovered fossilized spiders consist of a male and female pair. Both are larger than modern spiders found in Asia’s tropical jungles. In particular, the ancient male spider is drawing a lot of study from modern researchers.
What stands out about the male specimen is the large ‘horns’ growing out of its head. This species, labeled Electroblemma bifida, had armor plates to defend itself from competing species. According to Paul Selden, the study’s lead researcher and professor of invertebrate paleontology at the University of Kansas, the horns also contained the spiders’ eyes. The other unique aspect of the mummified spiders is that they possessed hooked fangs. This would have allowed them to secure a better hold while fighting predators and stalking prey.
As a result of the study, scientists have inserted the mummified spiders into the genus of Tetrablemmini, under the subfamily Tetrablemminae. There are pockets of spiders in the Tetrablemminae family throughout Southeast Asia and China. Most live in mosses, caves, and trash piles in tropical nations. The spiders do not build webs, which increases the importance of their hooked fangs for catching prey. Although modem variants are smaller than the two fossilized spiders, their bite can cause bad reactions in humans. While not lethal, the spiders carry a chemical on their fangs that causes intense itching and inflammation in human flesh. Their thick shells and dwelling place have earned the spiders the nickname ‘Cave Tanks.’