Invertebrates

Giant Daddy Longlegs Lives Up to Its Name

10/18/2012

HarvestmenIn the immortal words of ZZ Top, "She's got legs, and she knows how to use them."

The iconic band could very well have been singing about a new species of giant harvestman recently discovered in Laos that has some of the longest legs in the arachnid world, according to Physorg.

Harvestmen, or "daddy longlegs" as they are more commonly called, are an order of arachnids consisting of more than 6,500 species best defined by their incredibly long legs. Though they are often confused as spiders, they are actually a distinct order of arachnids, and are probably more closely related to mites and scorpions than to spiders.

The specimen recently found in Laos represents one of the largest species of harvestmen in the world, with legs measuring to a monstrous 33 centimeters. The animal was collected in a cave in the southern province of Khammouan, a region quickly becoming famous for its giant arthropods.

Despite its jumbo dimensions, the new species falls just short of the world record for leg-length among harvestmen. That title belongs to a South American creepy-crawlie that has legs measuring in at 34 centimeters in length.

So far the new species has yet to receive an exact taxonomic name, since its discoverers were not specialists on harvestmen of the region.

"It's a shame we can't identify such an exceptional discovery correctly, i.e. its species", explained Dr. Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany. "We haven't dealt with these and related genera from China and neighbouring South East Asia before. Specialists are also unavailable due to the fact that descriptive taxonomy is no longer the main focus of research funding."

For now it'll just have to be called a daddy very-longlegs.

Some of the other gigantic athropods found in the same region include a huntsman spider with a leg length of 30 centimeters, a scorpion with a span of 26 centimeters, and a centipede that creeps along at 40 centimeters in length. The good news for arachnophobes is that these creatures have a limit on how large they can get. If they grow too large, oxygen supply becomes difficult to deliver to the long appendages, and the animals' long legs make it too cumbersome for them to scurry away quickly from predators.

By Bryan Nelson

Photo Source: Senckenberg via Physorg


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