A daddy longlegs from 99 million years ago has been discovered, still sporting an erection from long before the end of the age of dinosaurs. The randy arachnid was found preserved in a piece of amber found in Myanmar.
Also know as a harvestman spider, daddy longlegs possess penises with a variety of shapes - in this case, sporting a twisted heart-shaped tip.
This unusual find, of a spider from the Cretaceous period, was the first to ever record an erect penis preserved in amber. The creature, with a body length of around 2 millimeters, exhibited a reproductive organ of more than half a millimeter long.
"It was very surprising to see the genitals, as they are usually tucked away inside the harvestman's body," Jason Dunlop, a curator at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany, said.
Only 38 specimens of harvestman spiders have ever been found preserved in amber. This creature, a member of the Halitherses grimaldii species, allows researchers an opportunity to study the ancient creatures like never before. One investigators determined that the penis is significantly different than any other known animal, it became apparent this amorous spider was an example of a recently-unknown, now extinct, species of spider, first seen in 2005.
Around 6,600 species of harvestman have, so far, been described by biologists. Other spider species have unique adaptations to the male genitalia. The organ of male orb spiders break apart inside the female after mating, providing the male with an oppportunity to escape before being devoroued by his partner.
The penises of daddy longlegs are usually hidden away, except when the creature is mating. This discovery allowed biologists to pinpoint how the ancient family fits into its family tree. The spider also sported eyes significantly larger than modern harvestman spiders.
No female was found with the male, suggesting she may have escaped the sap which trapped her partner, preserving him in amber to our present day. It may also be possible that the penis became erect due to rising blood pressure as the creature struggled to free itself of the resin which would encompass the animal.
An article detailing the discovery and analysis of the spider was published in The Science of Nature.