Barely out of puberty, a 99-million-year-old daddy longlegs was enjoying his newly acquired manhood on a tree in what is now Burma, when he died suddenly with a full erection.
“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 a study that examined his appendage. “This poor animal.”
Now, the rather impressive penis of the fossilized daddy longlegs is being examined and studied by scientists, and has actually been used to identify a new species of the spider, National Geographic reported.
This unique chunk of amber represents the first time a daddy longlegs has been frozen mid-arousal, and is the best-preserved erection ever found. And this is a valuable sight for scientists, since arachnids usually keep their penises hidden inside their bodies, invisible to outsiders when they’re preserved.
Today, the daddy longlegs is found everywhere on Earth but Antarctica, Discover Magazine reported. Over 6,500 different species are known to exist, but this spider — an ancient type called Halitherses grimaldii — either went extinct or evolved into something else millions of years ago. The arachnids have been around for 400 million years.
Also called a harvestman, the daddy longlegs goes through puberty for a few months, at the end of which he is endowed with a penis that, during an erection, is half the length of his body.
This type of spider is very different from other arachnids and male scorpions, which don’t actually have bona-fide penises. Instead, they use modified legs to do the dirty work of carefully placing sperm into females’ genital openings, located near their mouths.
However, there is one curious thing about the amorous scene caught in amber — the spider and his erection didn’t have a female companion preserved at his side. Scientists have a couple theories as to why.
This absence could be evidence of a “tragic separation.” While the lovers were enjoying each other’s company, they were wrenched apart and the male fell into the tree resin soon afterward, while this companion crawled away unharmed.
The other theory: the daddy longlegs was so afraid when he got stuck in the resin that his erection bloomed, much outside his control, explained the man who is studying the spider and his penis, Jason Dunlop.
“It might be the case that the animal was struggling as it was trapped in the tree resin and that this caused the blood pressure to shoot up and the penis to become squeezed out accidentally.”
In another piece of luck (for researchers, not the unfortunate spider) the sex organs of arachnids are extremely valuable, because they help them figure out which spider is which. Most daddy longlegs look pretty much the same, but their genitals are distinct to each type and therefore can be used to keep them all straight.
“Different families, and even species, [of harvestmen] can have a characteristic penis shape,” Dunlop said.
“In fact, [penises] are often even more important than the shape of the body and legs.”
With this in mind, they started looking closer at the daddy longlegs’ erection with photography and 3D imaging. That’s when they discovered that its erect manhood was pretty weird.
Scientists discovered that his erection had a heart-shaped head and twisted tip, which is used to convey sperm to the ladies. Because this feature is different from other species, this unfortunate daddy longlegs has been placed in a family all his own. He also has toothless mouth pincers, which also makes him unique and quite rare. As a result, he’s now been moved from one branch of the family tree to another.
[Photo by pap/Shutterstock]