Before you ask … yes, it’s THAT kind of an erection. Researchers in Myanmar studying a spider inside in a 99 million-year-old piece of Burmese amber discovered that the poor arachnid was trapped with an erect penis. Not only that, it’s believed to be the first time an arachnid’s penis has ever been preserved while fully extended (who keeps track of these things?).
The unlucky spider is a harvestman (Halitherses grimaldii) and was discovered in 2005. The erection eventually ended up in the hands of (these descriptions are unavoidable) Jason Dunlop from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. According to the study in the current edition of the journal The Science of Nature, Dunlop and his team used photography and 3-D imaging to find the penis, which they described in the way the only scientists can:
[It’s] a slender, distally flattened truncus, a spatulate heart-shaped glans and a short distal stylus, twisted at the tip.
The spider’s erection is actually a pretty big deal (once you start, you can’t stop). While most other spiders use a leg to deposit their sperm in a female, the harvestman (better known as the daddy longlegs) has a penis and, because different species of these spiders look so much alike, it’s essential in differentiating between the species, a field known as penis morphology (now THAT’S specializing).
This particular harvestman’s penis was so unique, the researchers were able to classify it in a new extinct family Halithersidae, within the suborder Dyspnoi.
I know what you’re thinking … did this poor erect harvestman have a harvest woman … a mommy longlegs? Sadly, for the romantic potential of this story, no female was found nearby. The scientists believe the spider either fell into the resin while having sex or got the erection when his blood pressure rose as he struggled to escape the sticky substance (yes, that’s what they called it).
This was a definitely great discovery for these arachnid researchers and they were rightfully proud of it.
However, they could have given a little more thought to their press release before entitling it “A Penis in Amber,” which means it’s going to be retrieved by all the wrong searches.