In the family of spiders Daddy Longlegs there are a lot of species – more than 1,800. Their main distinguishing feature is very long legs, so it seems as if this spider consists almost of only legs because its body itself is small. That’s why they call Longlegs. The spider very often settles in apartments, almost everyone has seen them.
Origin of the Species
The evolution of arachnids has been relatively poorly studied. It is known that they have inhabited our planet for hundreds of millions of years, and their most ancient ancestors were the first sea creatures that got out on land and adapted for life on it. The cobweb has become their most important evolutionary acquisition. Gradually, spiders found more and more uses for it, and other creatures even learned to fly to escape from them and their webs. Now very ancient species of spiders cannot be found, since they are constantly changing, and new species are replacing the old ones.
So, the family of Daddy Longlegs has formed “only” 0.5-2 million years ago – by the standards of evolution, this is indeed a very small time period. How exactly the development of the Daddy Longlegs took place, from whom they came, has not yet been reliably established, their research continues.
The family name in Latin is Pholcidae. It was described by K.L. Koch in 1850. In total, as many as 94 genera are referred to it, and there are about 1820 species at all – and they continue to discover new ones because most of them live in the tropics, often in poorly populated, remote regions of our planet.
In the last two years alone, B. Huber described several dozen genera, including hundreds of species inhabiting various parts of our planet: Arnapa in Indonesia and New Guinea, Muruta and Nipisa in Malaysia, Pemona in Venezuela, Magana in Oman, and so on. This shows how much work the scientific community has to do concerning spiders in general and the Daddy Longlegs family in particular: even a description of their species is far from complete, not to mention building a clear picture of evolution – the foundation on which further research should be built.
Appearance and Features
Depending on what type the Daddy Longlegs belongs to, the features of its structure can vary significantly. First of all, the differences concern its small body: in some species, it is well divided into the cephalothorax and abdomen, in others, the division is not so obvious, in some it is elongated, and in others it is spherical, and so on.
Sizes can also vary greatly – usually you can find individuals with body sizes excluding legs from 2 to 12 mm. Moreover, although elongated legs are considered the main distinguishing feature of the family, their length, in reality, is also very different, and in some forest species, they are no longer than the body.
But still, all such spiders living in the neighborhood of a person have very long legs – this is how they can be easily recognized. Of other common features, it is worth highlighting that there are four pairs of these legs and the same number of eyes. However, in species living in caves, pairs of eyes are one less. Males are inferior to females in size of the body itself, but at the same time, they have longer legs. In addition, their pedipalps are also different, but this cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Almost the entire globe is included in the spider’s habitat zone, they are absent only in the coldest places of the earth – the Arctic and Antarctic. Wherever a person lives, these spiders are also able to inhabit, they are in Greenland, and in the northernmost settlements of Russia beyond the Arctic Circle. But this applies to the inhabitants of residential buildings and apartments, in nature they prefer to live in warm regions, it is difficult for them to endure winter frosts. Therefore, in the wild, there are a lot of them in the tropics and subtropics, and much less in temperate latitudes, and they are not found in cold areas. Even in houses in the north, they are less common – although still quite common. In nature, they like to settle in caves, other crevices, and holes in trees or ground, old ruins of buildings. In inhabited houses and apartments, they prefer warmer places in the corners or behind the radiators – in general, they like warmth and dryness very much.
Interesting fact: Daddy Longlegs can move on their long legs, and very dexterously, due to the fact that it combines mechanical and hydraulic principles. The bending of the legs occurs due to the contraction of the muscles, but they unbend for a completely different reason – due to the hemolymph.
This way of getting around is very energy efficient. The work of the spider’s legs is so interesting that science fiction writers come up with mechanisms with the same principle of operation, and scientists and designers strive to create such mechanisms in fact – it is possible that they will still appear.
The basis of the spider’s menu is insects. Among them:
They very effectively exterminate the living creatures that enter the apartment, and do not allow them to breed – this is very useful. But there is also an obvious disadvantage of their presence in the house – the network. They are very extensive in spiders, and therefore very noticeable. One spider can entangle an entire corner and then tackle the next. Often their nests are located near the ceiling. The net is not sticky, the whole calculation is that the prey caught in it will become entangled, and this will give the spider time to attack it. He usually goes hunting after sunset. As soon as the victim is in the net, he approaches and further entangles it, using his long paws.
When the victim can neither dodge nor attack in response, Daddy Longlegs bites her, injecting poison – it poses no danger to a person. When the victim dies, a digestive enzyme is injected into it, after which its tissues become soft gruel, which it absorbs. And even the remaining solid particles of the victim’s body, the spider is also able to eat: it tears them off with the help of chelicerae, and then crushes them with shoots on its front legs and also eats them. If there is something left after eating, he removes the food and saves it – because sometimes no one gets into his network for a long time.
A hungry spider sometimes even begins to rush to prey, which just happened to be next to the web, but did not get entangled in it – in these cases, hunting can be dangerous for him, because sometimes the prey can be stronger than himself. Often in the winter, you have to starve, because living things are getting smaller. Daddy Longlegs then begin to feed on other spiders, including tribesmen or their eggs. The spider hunt is different: Daddy Longlegs pulls their webs to lure them out and then lashes out. Of course, this is dangerous: the outcome of the fight can be sad.
Interesting fact: If the prey is too large and it is undesirable to get into the net, the spider shakes the net so that it can be clearly seen, and potential prey could avoid it. And even if she has already been caught, but still remains too dangerous, he can bite some of the threads himself so that she can escape.
Features of Character and Lifestyle
A lot of spiders from this family of synanthropic, that is, accompany humans and are almost never found in the wild – they have adapted to live in houses and apartments, where it is much more convenient and safer for them because they are reliably protected from many predators.
They are active all year round – in winter they continue to weave a cobweb as if nothing had happened, try to catch insects, although there are significantly fewer of them, sometimes they even lay eggs at this time of the year. This is due to the fact that initially, Daddy Longlegs originated in the tropics because the seasonality factor for them did not matter.
They spend their days in dark corners, hanging motionless in their cobwebs – they hide from the sun, because they do not like its rays, even despite the love of warmth, and simply rest, gaining strength. The period of activity for them falls on the dark time of the day. While people are sleeping, these spiders can actively move around the apartment in search of prey.
Although these spiders are capable of starving for a long time, their patience is not unlimited, and if there is no prey in the house for a long time, they simply leave it – usually, this happens a month and a half after starvation, and go to more “nutritious” places. Therefore, regular cleaning and removal of various kinds of midges will help get rid of them.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Spiders become mature after about a year, during which they molt five times. After that, the males begin to develop a secret for fertilization and look for the female. Having found its web, the male attracts attention: for this, stepping on the net, begins to shake. When the female comes out, he feels her with his front legs, letting him know that he is ready for mating. Indeed, otherwise, the female may try to attack him – do not forget that cannibalism is not alien to these spiders. However, mating only postpones its attack: immediately after its completion, the male should run. If he becomes too weak during mating and cannot escape, then the female will still eat him. Therefore, each mating is very dangerous for the male, and most often they fertilize no more than two or three females in a lifetime. But females live much longer because no one tries to kill them after mating.
There are usually several dozen eggs, up to fifty. At the same time, the female does not build a cocoon, instead, she simply pulls the eggs with a net and carries them with her in chelicerae. Because of this, some fall out – they do not develop further and die off. A few weeks later, from those eggs that remained in the cocoon, small spiders appear. And here, too, not everything is lucky – some of the spiders turn out to be weaker than others, and are not even able to break the egg themselves and get out. The spider just eats them. The rest quickly develop and soon molt for the first time.
During molting, they shed their cover – this is a very painful process, after which the spider’s legs become short, and its body is almost transparent. While the spiders grow up and experience molting, they continue to stay with their mother – she carries them along with her in a net woven for this.
Natural Enemies of the Daddy Longlegs
In the wild, they have a lot of enemies, like other spiders. A variety of predators are not averse to feasting on them, including:
- mice and rats;
- large insects;
The list is not limited to the listed ones. In houses and apartments, in addition to pets, which usually have a moderate interest in spiders, and eventually completely stop reacting to them, they have almost no enemies, and therefore their life is much easier than in nature. Their main enemies are other large spiders.
In addition to predators, they are threatened by parasitic fungi from the genus Cordyceps. They grow inside the infected spider until they fill it from the inside – naturally, it dies. After that, they break out and eat it completely, so that even the chitinous membrane does not remain.
Daddy Longlegs is a harmless and even useful house dweller. They are fighting other harmful animals, the main thing is that they themselves do not become too many because then their web will be everywhere. There are many different species of these spiders, sometimes their representatives are not much alike, and some live only in wildlife.
Interesting fact: In addition to constantly keeping the house clean, scaring them off by smells will help to remove spiders. They hate it when they smell of eucalyptus, tea tree, and mint essential oils, and therefore spraying them regularly will help push spiders to move to another house.