They are charming to some, but creepy to others. No matter what your opinion is about the long-legged spider with the long legs, chances are you have seen it cruising along a wall or through its silky web.
Scientists have now done something with a house-dwelling spider species you’ve never seen before. By altering the genes of the creatures, they have created “daddy-short legs” specimens.
Researchers led by Guilherme Gainett from the University of Wisconsin-Madison first sequenced the genome of Phalangium opilio (technically not a spider but a close relative), thought to be among the most widespread of more than 6,000 different species of daddy long legs — also known as harvestmen — documented worldwide
The scientists then used RNA interference to “knock down” a pair genes that are involved in leg development in hundreds upon hundreds of daddy-long legs embryos. Six of the eight legs of the animals were half their normal size, which was the result of RNA interference.
It appeared that the legs were transformed into a different type of appendage called a pedipalp which is used to handle food.
Gainett stated that the genome of daddy’s long legs has great potential to help clarify the complicated history of arachnid body plan evolution and genome evolution, as well as reveal how daddy’s long legs get their unique long legs.
The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This research will help to develop more advanced tools for functional genetics, the team hopes.
Gainett said, “Looking ahead, we are interested to understand how genes give rise new features of arachnids such as scorpion pinchers and spider fangs, and also leverage the genome to create the first transgenic harvestmen.”
There are no plans to genetically engineer daddy long legs that is as deadly as the urban legend claims. The sequel to Arachnophobia must wait.