A combination of adaptation and natural selection has produced some beautiful and elegant creatures. It also causes some animal body parts to be completely strange. Have sponges lost their brains? What’s so strange about the mantis shrimp’s seemingly telescopic eyes? Why do sheephead fish teeth look so weird? What made researchers think of origami when confronted with the mystery of salamander wings?
Yes, arachnid legs function “kind of like… tongue, nose and fingertips.” Of all the places where tentacles could grow, why would nature choose snakeheads? Skilled combatants claim that almost anything can be used as a weapon, but unlike aquatic salamanders, they may even draw a line across their ribs. Shoe stork is nothing if not an innovative hunter.
When mating season comes, male venomous platypuses don’t have to worry about being cuckolded for good reason. The proboscis monkey’s nose may strike one as plain, but the females of its species seem to appreciate it, and another of its appendages is — well, for now, let’s assume you’ve been warned. .
For many, the harvestman is better known by one species among them, the daddy longlegs. The harvestman has eight legs, but, although it is an arachnid, it is neither an insect nor a spider, nor, as some believe, is the harvestman venomous. The harvestman’s most astonishing, totally bizarre body parts are its legs and not only because of their length.
As an article in The Atlantic points out, these amazing appendages “perform the work of several organs at once.” Their legs “can detect heat, water, pressure, and a panoply of chemicals.” Their legs’ sensory perception capabilities are “a bit like having tongues, noses, and fingertips ‘all over your knuckles,’” says Prashant Sharma, a harvestman biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Their many-jointed legs also enable them to curl the appendages several times around tree branches. The lower parts of their legs are so distant from the rest of their bodies that they are outfitted with holes that help the appendages stay oxygenated.
The harvestman’s legs are amazing for other reasons, too. According to Rodrigo Willemart, who studies harvestman sensory ecology at the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, “The fourth pair sport seriously stabby spines, used by some harvestmen to pinch predatory flatworms in two or to joust for access to mates.”
In addition, their legs help male harvestmen compete for mates. For the females of the species, size, as measured, with regard to harvestmen, by length, is important. “Whichever male has the longest leg wins, and it’s the one that is going to mate,” explains Guilherme Gainett, a developmental biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.