Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Things We Don't Know About What's Most Common

Calves burning as my right foot puts all its weight on a rock in order to make that last inch up the mountain. Hiking Poke-O-Moonshine is not a difficult task, but climbing it for the first time with a pack on my back full of clothes, food, and other camping supplies introduced a whole new world of physical exercise.

We had reached our destination; the lean-to that was only 10 minutes away from the summit, depending on how fast you walk, and all I could think of doing was taking a seat while I grab a drink of water. Soon enough, I began to feel something crawling on my leg. The wide space between all its legs stretched across my lower calf as it trickled its way up to my thigh. I knew immediately that it was a Daddy-Longlegs spider.

While most people are afraid of spiders in general and at a sight of one that is the size of a Daddy-Longlegs, many don't know that it is harmless. The sighting of such an Arachnid sparked a bit of a conversation amongst all who were sitting in the lean-to. It made me realize that none of us really knew why the spider was so harmless, but we did know a few things that we weren't sure was true.

To my own surprise, there are two different types of creatures referred to as Daddy-Longlegs. One is the Daddy-Longleg, which is referred to as Opiliones. These creatures show segmentation on its posterior, and is known for only having one body segment. A report from the University of California Riverside says that the body is the size of a pill. They get their name for having such long, outstretched legs, and also for the fact that they do not have teeth or venom glands. They mainly eat vegetation and animal remains since they have no means of attacking their food. They are mainly found underneath rocks and are apparently uncommon in public, so this may not have been the species I had seen.

Most likely, the spider I saw was what is referred to as the Daddy-Longlegs spider. They are apart of the Pholcidae family. These spiders have two body parts, which are the abdomen and the cephalothorax, have eight eyes, and has no segmentation on the body. These spiders are mainly found in cellars as well.

Unlike the Opiliones, they do produce silk and can make webs. There have actually been no tests done to see if the spider is deadly because of rules and regulations against killing the spider and injecting its venom into humans. These spiders do have teeth, but there is no scientific evidence stating that their teeth are too short to bite. What has been speculated is that the spider does not have a strong musculature to bite because it is able to use its web to catch its prey. Still, there is no evidence this spider has bitten a human and causing it any harm.

What we were always led to believe was that all Daddy-Longlegs spiders were extremely venomous but did not have any teeth to use the venom with. What I did not know was that there were two different types of Daddy-Longlegs. Something I see so often, I had no idea what it actually was. I am not entirely sure of which one I had spotted, but through the description I had read, the Daddy-Longlegs spider seems most probable.

1 comment:

  1. Oddly enough, two of you wrote about the daddy-longlegs. I am curious about the picture as it contains a different scientific name. I'm a little confused about your statement that the Opiliones shows body segmentation on the posterior but has only one body segment. That seems contradictory.