Jun. 5th, 2015

r_grayjoy: (Default)
Random post is totally random. But maybe informative?

I saw a discussion taking place where daddy-longlegs were mentioned and there was some vague disagreement about whether or not they're spiders, whether they bite, etc. I knew the whole "they're super duper poisonous and deadly to humans, but their fangs are too short to pierce human skin" thing was a myth, but I thought I'd look the exact information up while I was online and thinking about it.

It turns out that part of the confusion is due to the fact that there are two separate things: the daddy-longlegs and the daddy-longlegs spider.

The first thing that people call daddy-longlegs (also called harvestmen) are not spiders. They're arachnids, but they belong to a different order from spiders. They do have eight legs, but are not predators (mostly; they do prey on insects opportunistically sometimes, but they generally eat decomposing plant and animal matter) and do not have venom or fangs. They have only two eyes and don't spin webs.

The daddy-longlegs spider used to more commonly be called the cellar spider due to, well, the sort of places where they like to hang out. They have six to eight eyes (depending upon species) and spin webs. They do have venom, but it's relatively weak even in its effect on insects, so they certainly aren't poisonous enough to be a threat to humans (unless there's a severe allergic reaction maybe). Their fangs are short -- shorter than the average human skin thickness, actually. There doesn't seem to be any scientific evidence demonstrating that they can bite humans, but colloquially some people have reported feeling a bite -- including Adam Savage of Mythbusters.

Here's how to tell which one of the little buggers you're looking at: Spiders have two body segments (fused head-thorax plus abdomen). The legs are attached to the front segment, then they have a bulbous or cylindrical back segment. There's a visible "waist". Harvestmen have only one body segment. The legs are attached to the main body and there's no waist.

If you're not completely creeped out by such things, here and here are a couple of pictures of daddy-longlegs/harvestmen, and here and here are daddy-longlegs spiders/cellar spiders.

...Or if you are completely creeped out by such things, here and here are much friendlier images. ;)

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