'Daddy Long Legs' Fossil Unearthed in 3D

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Next time you're out picking tomatoes in your garden and you come across a 'daddy long legs,' realize that you are looking at a species whose body design hasn't changed much in 300 million years. Need proof? How about a 3-D model?

Researchers from the Imperial College London and an international team of scientists have developed 3-D models of two ancient types of harvestmen, also know as 'daddy long legs'. The two fossilized species, Dyspnoi and Eupnoi, skittered across the earth before the dinosaurs during the Carboniferous period.

Harvestmen were found on all continental landmasses, except Antarctica. Despite being the third most-diverse arachnid order, their itinerant life on earth and their poorly mineralized exoskeleton made many fossils unfit for preservation.

As a solution, the team relied on high-resolution X ray micro-tomography to reveal the two new harvestmen from the Carboniferous of France. The researchers took 3,142 X rays of the fossils and compiled them into 3-D models, using custom designed software. The models provided the first evolutionary analysis of any Paleozoic harvestmen, yielding fresh insight into how these tiny arachnids with 1-cm bodies survived and evolved in the ancient forests of Earth.

By comparing the 3-D models of the two specimens to modern 'daddy long legs,' the researchers found that the appearance of the ancient and modern species have changed very little over millions of years.

For more information related to dinosaurs, visit rareresource.com.


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