A new species of arachnid was discovered in a cave system in Brazil this week, prompting the scientists to name it after a Lord of the Rings character living in similar conditions. Meet Iandumoema smeagol, the blind Brazilian daddy longlegs.
Living in a cave its entire life, for generations, this spider has not only lost the use of its eyes, them becoming obsolete in the complete darkness of the cave system, but has also lost most of its pigmentation, leaving it a sickly yellow.
Although, spider is not a correct classification for Iandumoema smeagol, as the little wall-crawler is part of the daddy longlegs, a.k.a. the harvestman spider family.
Sure, they might look like spiders to the untrained eye (and by untrained I mean anyone who isn’t an arachnologist or who didn’t accidentally stumble upon this information on the internet), but the daddy longlegs we all know and not quite love is a different species of arachnid than spiders, due to some significant biological differences.
Sadly, similar to the original Smeagol’s home, which was threatened by the arrival of the annoying “hobbitses”, so is the house of our little friend. The cave system, which these precious spiders consider home, is threatened by limestone extraction and logging, and is left largely unprotected.
So far, only fourteen of the blind, pale arachnids have been spotted, and moving them has proven to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, as they are fully adapted to the cave system and will die if they are removed.
Led by Ricardo Pinto-da-Rocha, the team of scientists that has discovered our eight-legged cave dweller, called for assistance with the long-term study of the daddy longlegs and other life forms in the cave, hoping to get protection for the whole area, as well as a conservation policy.
For those of you that haven’t gotten the references in the article so far, Smeagol refers to one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters from his Lord of the Rings novels.
Being in possession of the One Ring of Power, Smeagol retreated to a dark, wet system of caves, surviving on whatever animals he was able to catch and on whoever was stupid enough to venture in those caves.
After decades of living in darkness, he became shriveled up, and his skin lost its natural color, leaving him a pale gray, and prompting him to renounce his Smeagol persona and to start referring to himself as Gollum.
How do you feel about this new, precious critter? Should it have been named Iandumoema gollum instead?
Please leave your comments below.