Arachnid Found Fossilized in Amber with 99 Million-Year Old Erection

Jason Dunlop/MfN Berlin
Jason Dunlop/MfN Berlin

Researchers from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany have discovered a Halitherses Grimaldii fossilized in amber — particularly unique because, for the first time, the arachnid’s extended penis is clearly visible.

The Halitherses grimaldii is commonly known as a Daddy Long Legs. This particular species was first discovered in Myanmar, Southeast Asia in 2005, preserved in 99 million year old amber. Including the Halitherses grimaldii, scientists have found fossils of 38 out of over 6,600 described Harvestmen species on record. This is the first time that they’ve managed to find one with an erection, however.

Uncomfortable yet? Let’s talk about the science and classification of arachnid dongs.

Penis structure is an important component in the process of identifying and classifying different modern animal species. Each species and family of modern harvestmen have uniquely structured genitalia, but with limited examples of fossilized harvestmen genitalia, scientists have found it difficult to draw comparisons between modern and ancient species.

While it is already known that modern male harvestmen directly transfer sperm into their female counterparts, the newly discovered fossil suggests that “daddies” in the Cretaceous period mated no differently than they do today.

Unlike any living harvestman spider, the genitalia of Halitherses grimaldii has a heart-shaped outline and a spatula-shaped tip with a small protruding tube. It’s the stuff of nightmares, as is appropriate because it is the reproductive organ of an arachnid. The fossilized harvestman also has large eyes, suggesting a possible primitive charactistic.

The team of researchers, led by Jason Dunlop, were able to place the arachnid in a new extinct family within the species. For the first time, researchers have defined a fossil family using a mixture of both body and genitalia features — the same approach used with living species.

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