Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Daddy Longlegs

Daddy Longlegs are also called Harvestmen and are not to be confused with the crane fly and the spider of the same name. Their scientific name is Opiliones and they are arachnids, but not spiders. Over 6000 species of Daddy Longlegs are known, but there are probably thousands more.

Usually, they feed on pretty much anything they find: plant matter, dead insects, live insects, even small lizards with some species. A few species have specialised, there are several who feed only on snails for example.

Their eyes, located on a raised part of their head, only see light and dark, so they use their long legs to feel for prey, particularly the second pair of legs that is longer than the others. If attacked, the legs can be dropped and will continue to twitch for some time, giving the daddy longlegs time to escape while the predator is busy with the leg. They also have scent glands that excrete a defensive liquid, sometimes so strong that even humans can smell it (but we're not harmed by it).

There's a myth that the daddy longlegs is the most deadly animal in the world and it's not true. They are completely harmless, inoffensive creatures and they have been around for over 160 million years. There are many discoveries yet to be made about them and a lot of fascinating fact are already known. For example, with some species, the male cares for the eggs. He builds a nest and females come by to mate and lay their eggs there. Some females will attempt to eat the eggs, though, and he needs to watch closely to prevent this.

I don't know the species of the daddy longlegs I photographed for this post, but I think that the first and third photo may show Phalangium opilio, one of the most common species.

More Ds at ABC Wednesday

Sources and further reading:
European Daddy Longlegs
North American Daddy Longlegs
Arachnology.org Daddy Longlegs FAQ

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