Quick facts for kidsOpiliones
Temporal range: Devonian – Recent
|4 suborders, > 6,400 species|
More than 6,400 species of harvestmen have been discovered, although the real number of extant species may be more than 10,000. Well-preserved fossils have been found in the 400-million year old Rhynie cherts of Scotland. The samples found look surprisingly modern. Apparently, the basic structure of the harvestmen has not changed much since then.
Harvestmen are not dangerous to humans. None of the described species has poison glands. They are not "true" spiders even though they look like spiders in many ways. For example, harvestmen have no venom or silk glands; spiders have these.
These arachnids have exceptionally long walking legs, compared to body size, although there are also short-legged species. In harvestmen the two main body sections (the abdomen and cephalothorax) are broadly joined, so that they appear to be one oval structure; they also have no venom or silk glands, unlike true spiders. In more advanced species, the first five abdominal segments are often fused into a dorsal shield called the scutum, which is normally fused with the carapace. In some species, this shield is only present in males. The second pair of legs is longer than the others and works as antennae. This can be hard to see in short-legged species.
The feeding apparatus (Stomotheca) differs from other arachnids as they are able to eat their food in chunks, without needing to liquify it. Most species have a single pair of eyes in the middle of their heads, oriented horizontally. However, there are some eyeless species.
- Pinto-da-Rocha R. Machado G. & Giribet G. eds. 2007. Harvestmen – the biology of Opiliones. Harvard University Press ISBN: 0-674-02343-9
- Pinto-da-Rocha R. & Kury A.B. 2003. Third species of Guasiniidae (Opiliones, Laniatores) with comments on familial relationships. Journal of Arachnology 31: 394-399. PDF
- Shultz, Jeffrey W. 1998. Phylogeny of Opiliones (Arachnida): an assessment of the "Cyphopalpatores" concept. Journal of Arachnology 26: 257-272. PDF
- University of Aberdeen: The Rhynie Chert Harvestmen (fossils)
- National Museum page Classification of Opiliones A synoptic taxonomic arrangement of the order Opiliones, down to family-group level, including some photos of the families
Images for kids
Opiliones Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.