New UW-Madison Study: Untangling “daddy longlegs”

Researchers have sequenced the first genome of a daddy longlegs - figuring out how the critter got its infamous legs.
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Afraid of spiders? Maybe some new research will give you a better appreciation for a few of our eight-legged friends. Researchers at UW-Madison have learned more about how one species has evolved and got their infamous legs!

The daddy longlegs isn’t a “true” spider - using only six of their legs for walking instead of all eight. According to researcher Gui Gainett - “They don’t have venom and they don’t spin silk”. These are two more reasons they don’t shape up like other spiders! Gainett and another researcher sequenced the first genome of the daddy longlegs and began making changes to several genes. They used a process called RNA-interference.

Don’t worry, a new spider wasn’t created in a lab!

The process involves “knocking down” or dialing back the expression of certain genes - called Hox genes - during the development stage. The scientists discovered that the affected genes were responsible for the development of three sets of legs. Changing another set of genes also affected the the front pair of legs - which have many sets of knuckles. This allows the daddy longlegs to climb, fight, mate, and most importantly - sense the world around them.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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