Harvestman from New Zealand

Subject: Spider with Fangs??
Location: New Zealand
January 27, 2013 5:07 pm
My friends and i spotted this scary looking spider on a tree whilst we were cycling round Lake Matheson on New Zealands south island. it seemed to have ’fangs’ and two long antenna things protruding from its head.
Any information would be grrrreat! thanks!
Signature: Matthew Toothill


Dear Matthew,
Thank you so much for submitting these photos of an interesting Harvestman or Daddy-Long-Legs.  Like Spiders, Harvestmen are Arachnids, but they are classified in the order Opiliones.  While spiders are predators, Opiliones are generally thought of as scavengers and they do not have venom.  Your individual has some unusual traits including the vertical appendages near the head.  We found an image of an unidentified species listed as a “forest species from Kaimanawa” on the Landcare Research of New Zealand website.  We then discovered a SciBlogs site called The Atavism that has some marvelous photos of what appears to be the same species.  It is identified as
Pantopsalis albipalpis with the identification credit going to Christopher Taylor.  The Atavism supplies this information:  “Ordinarily an animal that appears to have crawled out of the pages of The War of the Worlds would be more than enough for a post here, but those spindly legs are as nothing when you compare them to the crane-like appendages growing from his head.  Amazingly, those are his jaws, or at least his chelicerae. Arachnids have two sets of limbs associated with their heads, the pedipalps (which spiders use almost like legs, and, in males to deliver sperm if you can imagine such a dual-purpose organ) and the chelicerae which are used to grasp prey and direct it toward the mouth (arachnids don’t have chewing mouth-parts like many other arthropods).
Females from Pantopsalis and the related genus Megalopsalis have more or less normal chelicerae which point downwards, let their owners shuffle food towards their mouth and do very little else. As you can see, males are built a little differently. In fact, those massive hinged jaws are so different than the female form that males and females have frequently been mistaken for different species. Even within males, several species have two distinct forms; one with relatively low abd broad chelicerae and another with tall slender chompers.”  Christopher Taylor’s paper New Zealand harvestmen of the subfamily Megalopsalidinae (Opiliones: Monoscutidae) – the genus Pantopsalis can be found here on the New Zealand Government website tepapa.  We will attempt to contact Christopher Taylor to see if a species identification is possible based on your photos.  The species name cited in the SciBlogs posting,
P. albipalpis, alludes to the color white on the palps, if our Latin is correct, yet those images do not show white.  Your image does show an individual with white chelicerae.


Christopher Taylor provides some input
Hi Daniel,
Yes, this is the correct e-mail address. Thanks for contacting me. As
regards the animal in the photo, I suspect that it may be _Forsteropsalis_
rather than _Pantopsalis_, but it’s difficult to be sure. The two genera are
closely related and confidently distinguishing them often requires looking
at small features that are difficult to see in photographs. _Forsteropsalis_
species can be larger and more robust than _Pantopsalis_, but not always. I
can’t identify the species, sorry. Coming from that part of the South
Island, it could quite possibly be one that hasn’t yet been described.
Christopher Taylor

Leave a Comment