Scientists Genetically Engineered Daddy Longlegs Into Daddy Short Legs

Why do daddy longlegs have, well, such long legs? To find out the answer, scientists created a mutated version of the arachnid - call 'em daddy shortlegs - to find out how the animal's genetic codes evolve over time and how their legs became so lengthened.

First, researchers led by Guilherme Gainett of the University of Wisconsin-Madison sequenced the genome of Phalangium opilio, a species of harvestmen or daddy longlegs. 

Then they used a technique called 'mRNA interference' to turn off a pair of genes associated with leg development in the embryo. The result is an animal with six of its eight legs abnormally shortened.  Gainett observed that the legs also seemed to have been transformed into a different kind of appendage called pedipalp, which is used to handle food.

"The genome of the daddy long legs holds great potential to clarify the complex history of arachnid genome evolution and body plan, as well as to reveal how daddy long legs make their unique long legs," said Gainett to 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.

Image: Gainett et al.ā€‹

#spider #daddylonglegs #harvestmen #geneticengineering #mRNA

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