New Species of Daddy Longlegs Identified by Texas Tech Researcher

DATE: Sept. 20, 2006
CONTACT: Gretchen Pressley,
(806) 742-2136

LUBBOCK – A Texas Tech researcher has identified a new species of harvestman, commonly known as daddy longlegs.

James Cokendolpher, research associate at the Texas Tech Natural Science Research Laboratory, received the specimen from Matthew Bowser, a biology graduate student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. According to Cokendolpher, Bowser found the daddy longlegs on top of a small mountain in Alaska. The creature intrigued him because it was found in such a remote habitat and because of its unusual adaptation to the alpine environment.

“There are few known arthropods that live that far north and at that elevation,” Cokendolpher said. “This is the first one from that particular area. This discovery changed the current knowledge of harvestman in Alaska.

Cokendolpher concretely determined that this was a never-before-seen species by looking at differences in the morphology of the sample – the length and width of the appendages, the color pattern, and other microscopic features, or biological signs that don’t change when the specimen dies. The new sample did not match any other specimens found in that region of Alaska or in the world.

Cokendolpher has studied arthropods and harvestmen since 1970. He has written extensive papers on harvestmen, and one in particular written about 20 years ago details the genus Leptobunus, which Cokendolpher concluded is the genus of the new species.

Cokendolpher and Bowser are currently collaborating on a peer-reviewed scientific article describing the new species. Bowser will continue his study of this particular daddy longlegs to find out more about its biology, how it is able to survive the cold temperatures, and how they eat with such a limited choice of available food. The article should be completed this winter.

CONTACT: James Cokendopher, research associate, Natural Science Research Laboratory in the Museum of Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2486, ext. 266 or