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When not hunting, the spider often folds its fanged pincers, called chelicerae, down against the long, neck-like appendage connecting the arachnid's head to its body. As a result, the pelican spider looks more like a bird than a spider in profile.

Unlike a bird, however, the spider's mouth is situated at the bottom of its neck, putting the opening at perfect range to feast on whatever the spider manages to catch on the tips of its chelicerae. Pelican spiders are active hunters, the paper said.

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Rather than spinning their own webs, they prefer to stalk the trails of silk left behind by other spiders scuttling around their leafy habitats. At night, pelican spiders follow these silky bread crumbs, moving slowly and often upside down through the leaves. While the spider's back six legs do the walking, their front two legs sweep through the air, feeling for prey. After finally reaching the edge of another spider's web, pelican spiders can wait for hours for the right time to strike earning them the moniker " assassin spiders ".

Then, they strike with deadly efficiency. The spiders swing their chelicerae away from their bodies in a rapid, degree arc tojab the pincers into their prey. Thanks to the spider's long necks and pincers, they keep their prey held harmlessly at arm's length while deadly venom pumps through the predators' chelicerae and into their victims.

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Pelican spiders are unusual, even by arachnid standards , the statement said, but their methods are time-tested. Wood calls today's pelican spiders "living fossils," as the arachnids appear remarkably similar to species preserved in the fossil record dating back up to million years. It will hold the spider tightly in its forelegs until the spider dies, usually within 10 seconds of being stabbed. To confirm whether the bugs were really impersonating entangled insects, Wignall and her colleagues used lasers to monitor the vibrations made by assassin bugs, courting male spiders, leaves falling on the webs and prey such as flies and aphids.

They also recorded video of female spider responses to such trembling. The vibrations made by the assassin bugs sounded very similar to those generated by the leg and body movements of prey, yet quite distinct from those produced by courting males , leaves or the wing beats of prey.

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Assassin bugs and prey also led to similar responses from female spiders , yet different from reactions elicited by male spiders and falling leaves. The researchers noted that spiders are dangerous prey, and they occasionally saw assassin bugs get counterattacked, killed and eaten by the arachnids they were hunting.

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They suggest this might be one reason the bugs only mimic the leg and body movements of prey — spiders often rapidly advanced on prey that beat their wings quickly, and the assassin bugs might prefer to avoid such aggressive, quick attacks. The scientists detailed their findings online Oct.

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