harvestmen

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Opiliones (/ˈoʊpɪliːˈoʊniːs/; formerly Phalangida) is an order of arachnids commonly known as harvestmen. As of December 2011, over 6,500 species of harvestmen have been discovered worldwide, although the total number of extant species may exceed 10,000. The order Opiliones includes five suborders: Cyphophthalmi, Eupnoi, Dyspnoi, Laniatores, and the recently named Tetrophthalmi. With the exception of Dyspnoi (which is restricted to North America and Eurasia), representatives of each can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Well-preserved fossils have been found in the 400-million-year-old Rhynie cherts of Scotland, and 305-million-year-old rocks in France, which look surprisingly modern, indicating that their basic body plan appeared very early on, and, at least in some taxa, has changed little since that time. Their phylogenetic position within Arachnida is disputed: their closest relatives may be the mites (Acari) or the Novogenuata (the Scorpiones, Pseudoscorpiones and Solifugae). Although superficially similar to and often confused with spiders (order Araneae), Opiliones is a distinct order that is not closely related to spiders within Arachnida. They can be easily distinguished from even long-legged spiders by their fused body regions and single pair of eyes in the middle of their cephalothorax (spiders have an ‘abdomen’ that is separated from the cephalothorax by a constriction, as well as three to four pairs of eyes, usually around the margins of their cephalothorax).

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