In a hole in the ground there lives a harvestman. A new species of the order opiliones (a group commonly referred to as daddy longlegs or harvestmen, which are arachnids but not spiders) has been named Smeagol after the “Lord of the Rings” character. Iandumoema smeagol, if you want to get formal about it. The new species is described in a study published Wednesday in ZooKeys.
Smeagol, like Smeagol, is subterranean. Unlike Smeagol, smeagol doesn’t ever leave the moist cave it calls home. In fact, the Brazilian critter is eyeless — an adaptation that probably came from generations of evolution in the dark. Eyes are kind of a waste of space and energy if you can’t use them, after all.
The long-legged creature has lost most of its melanistic pigmentation, too, turning it a sickly pale yellow. There’s not much cause for melanin, which helps protect us from the radiation of sunlight, when you live your whole life underground. Smeagol gets it.
The researchers who found Iandumoema smeagol fear that this inability to adapt to life outside the cave — let alone travel from one habitat to another — has probably put the species in danger of extinction. They’ll be doing more research on the cave-dweller to determine just how badly in need of protection it is, and how we might go about saving it from extinction.