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Daddy Longlegs: New Eyeless Species Uncovered In Brazilian Cave

Nov 19, 2015 09:38 AM EST

Hidden within a humid cave in southeastern Brazil, a new eyeless species of Daddylonglegs (Harvestmen) was recently discovered. Researchers have since named the species Smeagol after a hobbit character with a gurgling cough, in The Lord of the Rings.

Harvestmen (Phalangium opilio), also known as daddy longlegs, are closely related to spiders, but differ in body structure. Essentially, harvestmen are relatively small compared to spiders and only have one main body section. They also have longer legs and lack venom glands.   

Smeagol, scientifically known as Iandumoema smeagol, represents the second-known eyeless harvestmen living in Brazil. Researchers believe the arachnids have adapted to an eyeless lifestyle as a result of their limited range, meaning they never leave their subterranean habitats. Researchers from the Instituto de Biociências da Universidade de São Paulo and the Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) concluded this after observing fourteen adult and juvenile individuals staying in close proximity to the moist walls of the cave they call home. While juveniles appeared to be quite active, adult Smeagols tended to act a bit more reserved, according to a new release.

Additionally, researchers found the long-legged creatures have a reduced amount of melanistic pigmentation, which is obvious in its pale yellowish body color. However, since melanin is a skin pigment used to protect species from sunlight radiation, Smeagol does not have much use for melanin, seeing as it spends its entire life hidden inside a cave.  

The harvestmen do find ways around limited food sources, though. When observing the species, researchers found organic matter deposits within the cave that individuals would scavenge through.

Researchers noted, however, that such limitation on habitat range may put the species at risk of extinction. Further research is needed to determine how badly in need of protection the cave-dwellers really are. Their finding was recently published in the journal ZooKeys

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