Pedipalps (commonly shortened to palps or palpi) are the second pair of appendages of the prosoma in arthropods of the subphylum Chelicerata, lateral to the chelicerae and anterior to the first pair of walking legs.
Pedipalps are composed of six segments or articles: the coxae, a single trochanter, the femur, a short patella, the tibia, and the tarsus. In spiders the coxae frequently have extensions called maxillae or gnathobases, which function as mouth parts with or without some contribution from the coxae of the anterior legs. The limbs themselves may be simple tactile organs outwardly resembling the legs, as in spiders, or chelate weapons of great size, as in the scorpions. Comparative studies of pedipalpal morphology may suggest that leg-like pedipalps are primitive in Arachnida. At present, the only reasonable alternative to this view is to assume that Xiphosurans reflect the morphology of the primitive arachnid pedipalp and to conclude that this appendage is primitively chelate. Chelate or sub chelate pedipalps are found in several arachnid groups, i.e. Ricinulei, Thelyphonida, Scorpiones and Pseudoscorpiones, but the chelae in most of these taxa may not be homologous with those found in Xiphosura. The pedipalps are distinctly raptorial (modified for seizing prey) in the Amblypygi, Thelyphonida, Schizomida and some Opiliones belonging to the laniatorid group.
Pedipalps are traditionally thought to be homologous with mandibles in Crustacea and insects, although more recent studies (e.g. using Hox genes) suggest they are probably homologous with the crustacean second antennae.
Pedipalps of spiders have the same segmentation as the legs, but the tarsus is undivided, and the pretarsus has no lateral claws. Pedipalps contain sensitive chemical detectors and function as taste and smell organs, supplementing those on the legs. In sexually mature male spiders, the final segment of the pedipalp, the tarsus, develops a complicated structure (sometimes called the palpal bulb or palpal organ) that is used to transfer sperm to the female seminal receptacles during mating. The details of this structure vary considerably between different groups of spiders and are useful for identifying species.
The embolus is a narrow whip-like or leaf-like extension of the palpal bulb.
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- Media related to Pedipalps at Wikimedia Commons
- Several close-up photos of a tarantula creating a sperm web - Brachypelma vagans (Mexican red-rump)