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article image'Behemoth' new species of daddy longlegs found in Oregon

By Karen Graham     Feb 1, 2016 in Science
The mountains of southern Oregon are said to be the haunt of monsters. However, while the elusive Bigfoot has yet to be found, scientists have discovered another creature known for its monster-sized appendages.
The creature has been given the name Cryptomaster behemoth, a name particularly deserving for such an enormous arachnid. It measured all of 4.0 millimeters (0.15 inches) wide, which may not seem particularly large to some folks, but it's the biggest known species in its genus.
The Cryptomaster behemoth towers over other creatures of its kind, and like its relative, the Cryptomaster leviathan, is just as elusive. Mother Nature News reports that scientists say both creatures are very difficult to find because they stay hidden beneath logs and leaves on the forest floor.
The previously known second member of the Cryptomaster genus  C. leviathan.
The previously known second member of the Cryptomaster genus, C. leviathan.
Dr. James Starrett
The Cryptomaster leviathan was first found in 1969 at one location in Gold Beach, Oregon, a town along the southwest coast. The Cryptomasters belong to a very diverse suborder called Laniatores, that has over 4,100 known species around the world. Daddy longlegs belong to the arachnid order Opiliones, commonly known as harvestmen because they are most often seen in the fall, after the harvest.
Cryptomaster leviathan got its name from the monstrous sea creature in the Old Testament and the Book of Job. In keeping with another large beast mentioned in the Book of Job, Cryptomaster behemoth was the name given to the newest discovery.
Mysteries still awaiting an answer
Curiously, both species come in two forms, with one significantly larger than the other, although they all have the short legs characteristic of arachnids of the Laniatores order. But as to why there are two sizes is a mystery, according to Live Science.
A Male C. leviathan  B Holotype male C. behemoth
C Female C. leviathan  D Allotype female C. behemot...
A Male C. leviathan, B Holotype male C. behemoth C Female C. leviathan, D Allotype female C. behemoth Scale bars: 1 mm.
There is one difference between the two species, though. C. leviathan has two tiny, fully erect spines pointing straight up on its penis. The C. behemoth does not have the spines. The scientists haven't figured out what the spines are used for.
It isn't clear why there are two forms. "The different forms can be found in both sexes, in both species, and from the same localities. Additionally, the two forms are not genetically divergent," the researchers wrote in their paper. The researchers also extracted DNA from the legs of multiple animals from each species.
They found that C. leviathan had very little genetic diversity, even though it was showing up in a broad range of habitats. Interestingly, C. behemoth had more genetic diversity, but a relatively small range. It was also discovered that the large and small versions of each species did not differ genetically, so the difference in size must have another meaning.
"This research highlights the importance of short-range endemic arachnids for understanding biodiversity, and further reveals mountainous southern Oregon as a hotspot for endemic animal species," the researchers wrote.
This interesting study, "A new monster from southwest Oregon forests: Cryptomaster behemoth sp. n. (Opiliones, Laniatores, Travunioidea)," was published in the online journal ZooKeys on January 20, 2016.
More about monster daddy longlegs, Leviathan, book of Job, two members of species, harvestmen
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