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Ancient arachnids: 305-million-year-old fossil reveals fascinating secrets

An arachnid named Christmas Lights Jumping Spider from the Dominican Republic, species unknown, but surprisingly marked with fluorescent scales
An arachnid named Christmas Lights Jumping Spider from the Dominican Republic, species unknown, but surprisingly marked with fluorescent scalesFotopedia

The recent discovery of an ancient arachnid fossil in eastern France revealed some pretty shocking secrets and scientists say the finding adds significant detail to the evolutionary story of this unique and highly diverse group of arthropods. According to an April 10 Live Science report, the ancient arachnids, called harvestmen (Hastocularis argus aka daddy long legs), actually had not just one, but two sets of eyes.

Upon examination of the ancient arachnid fossil from approximately 305 million years ago, scientists were able to reconstruct the appearance of the animal. In particular, they used X-ray imaging to reveal its features. They then found that H. Argus had two pairs of eyes while modern arachnids have only one pair.

"Although they have eight legs, harvestmen are not spiders; they are more closely related to another arachnid, the scorpion," said Dr Russell Garwood, a lead palaeontologist at the United Kingdom's University of Manchester.

"Arachnids can have both median and lateral eyes, but modern harvestmen only possess a single set of median eyes - and no lateral ones. These findings represent a significant leap in our understanding of the evolution of this group," he explained.

Dr. Garwood published the incredible finding in the journal Current Biology. The research team's findings proved that harvestmen, which are arachnids, (a group of animals comprised of over 100,000 named species, including spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks and mites), can be equipped with two sets of eyes. However, modern harvestmen only have one set of eyes at the center of the body, a report from Red Orbit says.