An ancient arachnid was caught in amber just at the verge of procreation, and preserved perfectly for a hundred million years.
Death comes for us all; all we can do is hope that we aren’t caught with our pants down when it does. Isn’t that right, Halitherses grimaldii? Oh, dear…
Yes, it seems the ancient spider offshoot was moments away from consummating with a lucky female of the species when it was suddenly overcome with sticky, deadly, and sturdy tree resin. The poor little guy was trapped and perfectly preserved over 99 million years ago – all with its erection on full display.
Modern spiders and scorpions actually use a modified leg appendage to deliver itsy bitsy sperm packets to females. Harvestmen, also known as daddy long legs, are arachnid cousins to spiders and have real, fully-formed penises. Frankly, grimaldii had nothing to be ashamed of: his own member stretched over half of his body length.
Harvestmen throughout evolutionary history are somewhat hard to tell apart. To laymen and scientists alike, they really do all just look like long-legged spider-y things. Jason Dunlop, who led the study and is with the Berlin Museum of Natural History, knows how to tell them apart.
“Different families, and even species, can have a characteristic penis shape,” he says. “In fact, they [penises] are often even more important than the shape of the body and legs.”
I am ever-so-grateful for people like Jason in the world.