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article imageNew daddy longlegs named after Smeagol of Lord of the Rings

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 20, 2015 in Environment
Living in a deep, dank cave in Brazil, this tiny, pale creature never emerges into the sunlight. Even if it did, the little harvestman, or daddy longlegs, is blind, so seeing sunlight isn't something it could ever do.
It's also something the arachnid hasn't needed to do. As a new species in the order opiliones (commonly referred to as harvestmen or daddy longlegs), the creature was given the name Smeagol after the "Lord of the Rings" character who was later named Gollum, The Washington Post reports.
Smeagol famously ventured out of his cave, but Iandumoema smeagol spends its entire life inside this limestone cave in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, New Scientist reports.
Something a little more recent from Dublin s wax museum - a realistic looking Gollum.
Something a little more recent from Dublin's wax museum - a realistic looking Gollum.
Other species in this order venture above ground to mate or feed, but I. smeagol is completely adapted for living a subterranean lifestyle, having lost its eyes and pigmentation. Scientists have observed 14 of the creatures so far, and they keep close to a stream, where they cling to the wet cave walls.
Discovered by Ricardo Pinto-da-Rocha, of the University of São Paulo and his colleagues from the Federal University of São Carlos, it's believed this harvestman only occupies a small area and may be under threat from human activities including deforestation, the installation of small hydroelectric dams and limestone extraction for producing cement near the cave.
Scientists have discovered numerous species of harvestmen that like to get away from it all underground, LiveScience reports. I. smeagol, however, is the only known harvestman in the genus Iandumoema that has no eyes and is completely blind.
This creature's blindness is an example of troglomorphism, which means a physical adaptation resulting from living in the continual darkness of caves. Blindness and loss of pigment are typical troglomorphisms that are observed in many species of cave-dwelling creatures, including the olm (Proteus anguinus), which is salamander that is also pale and eyeless. It lives in limestone caves of southern Europe.
Although daddy longlegs are arachnids and they look like spiders, they actually aren't. Instead, they are more closely related to other arachnid orders, such as Solifugae (camel spiders) and Scorpinida(scorpions), LiveScience notes.
Harvestmen are also different than spiders in two other aspects: They have fused body sections and have a penis. Male spiders use their pedipalps for mating.
Pinto-da-Rocha and his colleagues worry that the creature's inability to adapt to life on the outside, or to even travel from habitat to habitat, means the species may be in danger of extinction, The Washington Post reports. They plan to conduct more research on the delicate critters to determine how much protection they need, and how we might save them from extinction.
More about Lord of the rings, smeagol, daddy longlegs, harvestman, Arachnid
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