Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daddy Long Legs

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.

Endearing accent aside, this indignant German does bring up an excellent point: what exactly is the deal with daddy long legs?

As it turns out, the name "daddy long legs" is shared by three separate creatures, which all sport - you guessed it - notably long legs. The critters our Deutsch friend refers to are called Opiliones (or harvestmen). These eight-legged animals have two-segment oval bodies, have barely changed in the past 400 million years, and can be found across the globe. Though arachnids, harvestmen are not spiders, and lack both silk and venom glands; still, an erroneous urban legend contests harvestmen are the most venomous creatures on earth, yet lack fangs strong enough to pierce human skin.

Though harvestmen aren’t spiders, the Pholicidae Family of spiders share the familiar “daddy long legs” moniker. Like harvestmen, these eight legged creatures are found all over the world. Also called cellar spiders, Pholicidae have peanut shaped bodies and are commonly found in dry, warm places, like household windows, attics, and – surprise! – cellars. Cellar spiders typical trap prey in their webs, killing them with a poisonous bite. Though you this might sound hopeful for the daddy long legs myth, their venom is not toxic to humans.

Finally, there’s one more animal that bears the daddy long legs name: the crane fly or mosquito hawk. Unlike its arachnid counterparts, the crane fly is a six-legged insect. Although they look like mosquitoes (and are often squashed with same vehemence), some mosquito hawk larvae actually eat mosquito larvae. Crane flies can be distinguished from their blood sucking cousins by a V-shaped structure on their thorax and a lack of biting mouth parts (I know what you’re thinking – they’re not poisonous either).

There you have it: three creatures share one characteristic, but are quite different when take a closer look. Although their shared name is understandable, it does make things a bit confusing. So the next time you’re tempted to judge a bug by its looks, remember: they’re more than just a set of legs.

Source: 1, 2, 3