Spooky, subterranean daddy longlegs with ghostly pale bodies discovered

The two new types of daddy are blind and colorless longlegs spiders found in the dry western part of Australia and one located on the paradise island Reunion.

Both species live in subterranean habitats that may have led to their colorless bodies and blindness. Researchers believe that both subterranean spiders may tell a gripping tale about how species change and change over time.

This research “really highlights why it is that biodiversity discovery matters and how it is that you can find really unusual species in some of the strangest places that you look,”¬†Prashant Sharma, Biologist of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not part of the new research said to Live Science.

Spiders of the Pholcidae family can be found worldwide and are known for their long, spindly legs that earned them the popular name “daddy longlegs.” Since they are found in dark areas like basements, they’re often known as “cellar spiders.” Researchers published descriptions of the two new Pholcid species on July 24 in the scientific journal¬†Subterranean Biology.

These daddy longlegs spiders are not to be mistaken for harvestmen, another kind of arachnid commonly called daddy longlegs. In contrast to Pholcid spiders, which look like regular spiders with two distinct body parts, Harvestmen usually behave as a single, circular body part lifted by their slender wire legs.

The first Pholcid spider was found in the mining boreholes of the Pilabra area, a dry and rocky habitat located in a remote part of Western Australia. This species is part of the genus Belisana and was, before this study – was believed to be a species that lived only several hundred miles in Asia and the more arid northern region of Australia.

Since this particular spider is far from the other members of its genus, researchers believe that the Belisana species might have been more prevalent in Australia. The genus might have existed across the continent around 60 million years before it was covered in forests. However, as central and western Australia became drier, many species of Belisana spiders that lived there may have gone extinct, apart from this new species, Belisana coblynau. It could live in underground habitats that weren’t as altered as the surface ecosystem.

The second new species that were identified in this paper was discovered underground. However, this time, it was in a lava tube — an underground tunnel created by molten lava located on Reunion, which is a French island located off on the coastline in Madagascar located in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

The spider is part of the Genus Buitinga and has its closest relatives within the African mainland. However, none of the Buitinga spiders are on Madagascar, even though Madagascar is closer to the African continent and is much bigger than Reunion. To make matters more confusing, daddy longlegs spiders aren’t able to “balloon,” a process where young spiders weave parachutes made of silk and let the winds blow them around, which is a fantastic method of traveling across islands.

Due to this, researchers think that the Reunion Buitinga spiders likely ended on the island because of a singular event, such as the log carrying a bunch of spiders across the sea or a storm carrying spiders away from the mainland in solid winds.

Cave-dwelling animals, like spiders, typically lose their vision and color as they adjust to their underground environments, Sharma said. Maintaining eyesight and generating body pigmentation takes a lot of effort and energy. Animals are more likely to put their energy into other areas in a place with very little or no light, such as a lava tube or mining borehole.

For instance, particular creatures that are underground develop the ability to smell, Sharma explained, and this could help them gain an understanding of what’s going on surrounding them.


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