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Researchers tweak genes behind daddy longlegs insect, create ‘daddy shortlegs’

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Researchers have found a way to “switch off” the genes behind the famously long limbs of the daddy longlegs spider, creating daddy shortlegs, online news media Live Science reported on Monday.

Also referred to as harvestmen or crane flies, the daddy longlegs insect belongs to the class Arachinds, which are essentially eight-legged invertebrates including scorpions, spiders, ticks, horseshoe crabs and mites.

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The research, published in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Guilherme Gainett, involved conducting genomic sequencing on the Phalangium opilio (similar to a spider) which have been regarded as the most widespread of the 6,000 daddy longlegs species.

The researchers then used a technique called RNA interference on hundreds of embryos to switch off the genes that cause their famously long legs. This resulted in a decrease in the length of six of the animals’ eight legs, making them half the size they would normally be.

“The genome of the daddy long legs holds great potential to clarify he complex history of arachnid genome evolution and body plan, as well as to reveal how daddy long legs make their unique long legs,” Gainett was quoted as saying by online news media CNET.

“Looking forward, we are interested in understanding how genes give rise to novel features of arachnids, such as spider fangs and scorpion pinchers, and also leveraging the genome to develop the first transgenic harvestmen,” he added.

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