Daddy Longlegs Used To Be Even More Terrifying

New fossil shows that the primitive arachnids had an extra set of eyes. Cue heebie-jeebies.

1. Harvestmen (better known as daddy longlegs) are classified as arachnids and have just one set of eyes.


2. But a new 305-million-year-old fossil found in France shows that these ancient arachnids had four eyes, according to new research published in Current Biology.


(Merciless teasing from other arachnids was not reported.)

3. Arachnids can have two different kinds of eyes either on the side (lateral) or toward the middle (median) of the body.

4. The new harvestman fossil, shown here in a high-resolution x-ray, has both.

Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle

5. Modern (and adorable) harvestmen embryos only have a single pair of median eyes.

AMNH/P. Sharma

The white arrows show lateral eye-field areas, which never actually develop. The black arrows show the domains that eventually form the median eyes.

6. Although harvestmen are eight-legged and arachnids, they’re not actually spiders: They’re closer to scorpions, mites, and ticks!


7. It’s uncertain as to why daddy longlegs lost a set, but it might have to do with their foraging lifestyle. Spiders, on the other hand, rely on their eyesight to hunt (and also scare us).


8. Because exoskeletons don’t preserve well, this fossil will hopefully fill some evolutionary gaps about harvestmen and their successful existence.


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