Surely you’ve also been fascinated by the elegance that a daddy-long-legs spider stretches its limbs. You almost wouldn’t mind if the creature touches you, which is unexpected when we generally think about humans’ perception regarding arachnids.
But scientists generally become better and better at manipulating nature. A team of researchers managed to genetically modify the Phalangium opilio, meaning the most common species of the famous daddy longlegs spider, which is also known as harvestmen.
Meet the “daddy shortlegs” spider
The scientists mapped the genome of the spider and isolated the genes that were making possible the existence of the long legs of the insect. The long leg genes were further turned off in developing embryos. Therefore, spiders with shorter legs emerged.
The scientists involved needed two years for mapping all the 580 million base pairs of the genome. The next step was to search the DNA map for genes that are likely to create the long legs. They compared the genome with others belonging to other insects.
After the comparison, two Hox genes were revealed. This was a group of related genes that code for specific parts of the body during embryonic development.
Guilherme Gainett, who is the lead author of the study and also a graduate student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, declared for LiveScience.com the following:
Our purpose was not just to shorten their legs just for the sake of it,
We wanted to understand more about how these fascinating creatures evolved their alien way of locomotion and body plan.
Spiders are among the most diverse groups of animals in the world. There are more than 45,000 discovered species of spiders.
Spiders can generally work together for a goal.
The new study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.