Meet the bunny harvestman, a fascinating arachnid found in the Amazon rainforest of eastern Ecuador.
At first glance, this strange creature looks like a cross between a spider and a fluffy mammal. To some, the two prongs sticking out of its abdomen are reminiscent of rabbit ears. From some angles, it looks like an eight-legged biomechanical monstrosity carrying either a dog‘s head or the anime character Totoro.
So, what’s the story behind the so-called “bunny harvestman” — and what is it, exactly?
Bunny harvestmen: Bugs or bunnies?
The first thing to understand about the bunny harvestman is that it isn’t a spider.
While spiders and harvestmen (colloquially known as “daddy longlegs”) are both classified as arachnids, they fall under different orders. Spiders are in the order Araneae, while harvestmen belong to the order Opiliones.
Both spiders and harvestmen have eight legs and segmented bodies (divided into the cephalothorax, or head, and the abdomen). However, the segmentation in a harvestman’s body is less pronounced and barely noticeable.
In addition, while spiders can have between zero to eight eyes, harvestmen have two. Harvestmen also do not possess silk glands or fangs (ergo, no webs or venom). To compensate, they can release an odorous liquid as a defensive measure. However, they do possess chelicerae, which they use for grasping food.
First described in 1959 by German arachnid specialist Dr Carl Friedrich Roewer, the bunny harvestman (Metagryne bicolumnata) is one of over 6,500 species under Opiliones. It belongs to the Cosmetidae family, found in South America and named after the Greek word for “ornate.”
Aside from its dark body and light-colored legs, the bunny harvestman also has a pair of spots on its back, between its eyes and its abdominal prongs. This may intended to make it appear more massive to predators — a useful adaptation for this scavenger.
This specimen was photographed by Dr Andreas Kay, an independent scientist, somewhere in eastern Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Kay owns and runs a page called Ecuador Megadiverso, which contains over 25,000 photos of various rare and threatened species in Ecuador.
Photos taken by Andreas Kay.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.