Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This Isn't Your Father's Daddy Longlegs

While on a night hike looking for fluorescent millipedes and whatever else I could find a few months ago (September 16th), I came across a most interesting arachnid. Now, it's important to note that Arachnids aren't just spiders: Arachnida is a large class that includes other organisms like scorpions, ticks, mites, solifugids, and harvestmen (or daddy longlegs, if you prefer). It's the harvestmen (Order Opiliones) that are most important to this post, and while the popular perception of harvestmen is a small-bodied organism with long, thread-like legs, this is not always the case.

There's a surprising amount of diversity in the harvestmen: it includes 6,411 described species (estimates of over 10,000 total species have been put forward!) and 45 families. After spiders and mites, it's the third largest order of Arachnids.

Which brings us to the specimen found on that cool September night:

Not exactly what you were expecting, eh?

This is probably the largest harvestmen I've encountered, and it's definitely much different from the other species I've seen. From what I can tell, this is a species in the genus Vonones, in the suborder Laniatores (we'll tackle the significance of that later) and the family Cosmetidae. I'm a fan of the colors on this one, the red, brown, and yellow blend nicely together.

Was I hesitant to pick up this harvestmen at all? Nope--harvestmen don't have venom glands! I scrambled to catch it before it could get away, as I had just lifted up a stone. I screamed, sure, but that was a scream of joy, not of fear: I had found this neat organism, AND an assassin bug as well!

  Black Corsair - Melanolestes picipes

An assassin bug along with an interesting harvestman? TOTAL SCORE! There's some interesting life hiding under stones, so I made a mental note to add that to my routine while walking through the forest. I had been checking stones before, but this was one of my first night hikes, giving me the chance to find different organisms.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find too much information about Vonones, but I'm still searching. One odd piece of information I've come across is that they fluoresce under UV light, according to this thread on Arachnoboards. I'll be checking that out next time I encounter one.

 What secrets do you hold?!

I mentioned earlier that there's a significance to Vonones being in the suborder Laniatores. It seems as though harvestmen in this suborder exhibit paternal care for eggs after they are laid--unique in the Arachnids, and restricted to this suborder. It would be interesting to investigate if this behavior holds true for Vonones, and how it affects survival. Perhaps daddy longlegs are more loving than you first thought...

References

Beccaloni, Jan. 2009. Arachnids. Berkeley: University of California; 320 p.

2 comments:

  1. Last summer I had an assassin bug that's very similar in his form of self defence to the wheel bug living in my yard. I placed him on a hanging pepper plant and fed him regularly. His diet consisted mostly of injured half dead flies and other small bugs. He lived for several months then began turning grey. He claimed down from the plant and made his way to my she'd where I later found him dead. A very interesting summer "pet."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Last summer I had an assassin bug that's very similar in his form of self defence to the wheel bug living in my yard. I placed him on a hanging pepper plant and fed him regularly. His diet consisted mostly of injured half dead flies and other small bugs. He lived for several months then began turning grey. He claimed down from the plant and made his way to my she'd where I later found him dead. A very interesting summer "pet."

    ReplyDelete