Daddy longlegs once had four eyes, research says

BY Colleen Shalby  April 11, 2014 at 1:58 PM EST
A Daddy longlegs. Photo by Flickr user rittyrats

A Daddy longlegs. Photo by Flickr user rittyrats

Hey, four-eyes.

No, not you with your glasses perched on your nose. I’m talking to Daddy Longlegs over there, hiding in the corner. Turns out, a 305-million-year-old fossil has revealed an eye-opening truth about our eight-legged friend’s ancestors: they had not two eyes, but four!

Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Manchester discovered the fossil in the eastern region of France, and published their research in the journal Current on Friday.

Exoskeletons of these arachnids — whose technical name is “harvestmen,” and not the commonly thrown around “spiders” — don’t preserve well. This finding fills in some gaps of the evolutionary history of the insect.

As embryos, modern-day daddy long-legs momentarily express the gene that grows the second pair of eyes. But by the time they hatch, they only form one set of eyes.

Only time will tell what this web of research will reveal next.