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November 2021

Friendly neighbourhood harvestman

I came across this spider at night in the catchment of the Condamine River. It was about 10mm long. I could not find any info on it. Are you able to identify this particular specimen?

Answer

Long Legged Harvestman are arachnids, but are not spiders. Photo: Richard Lukacz

Opiliones have one body part unlike spiders that have two clearly visible body segments. Photo: Richard Lukacz.

These images are amazing and show the incredible beauty, colour and texture of this incredible animal. The eight long legs give it the appearance of a spider however technically this animal is not a spider.

The creature you have photographed is commonly called a long-legged harvestman. Harvestmen are classed as Arachnids just like spiders, scorpions and mites but are from the Order Opiliones (Spiders are Order Aranea, scorpions are Order Scorpiones, mites are too complicated to go into here)

The harvestman in your photograph is from the family Neopilionidae. It’s extremely long chelicerae (the mouthparts) show that it is a male.. Although the mouthparts look imposing, they are not used to capture prey for food as harvestmen are generally scavengers. The mouthparts on this particular species are instead used as weapons in male-to-male competition.

If you look closely at the body of the harvestman you can see that it is basically a single oval body part, and this is one thing that differentiates it from spiders. Spiders have two clearly distinct body parts, a head-torso and an abdomen. Another difference is that harvestmen do not produce silk.

Opiliones are found worldwide and many species are brightly coloured like the one you have photographed. In Australia they are usually found in rainforests and other wet forests, often on mossy tree trunks at night.

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This male has prominent chelicerae, which are used when fighting other males. Photo: Richard Lukacz.

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