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Comparative study of the defensive behavior and morphology of the gland opening area among harvestmen (Arachnida, Opiliones, Gonyleptidae) under a phylogenetic perspective

Arthropod Structure & Development
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s1467-8039(03)00040-9
  • Defense
  • Laniatores
  • Opiliones
  • Behavior
  • Phylogeny
  • Evolution
  • Biology
  • Chemistry


Abstract The arachnids of the order Opiliones (harvestmen) have a pair of scent glands opening at the sides of the body, the substances of which are used in defense. Several types of behavioral, morphological and chemical defensive mechanisms have been assigned to the order as a whole, although some of these tactics were restricted to particular groups. Only around 25 species have been studied from this perspective so far. In the present paper, we analyzed 33 species (mostly from the largest harvestmen family, the Gonyleptidae) aiming at recognizing the usefulness of the defensive characters in taxonomy and evolutionary biology. We observed the morphology of the gland opening (ozopore) area and the defensive behavior, and their relationship, and mapped these traits on an available phylogenetic hypothesis of relationship within Gonyleptidae. As outgroups, we analyzed Cosmetidae and Stygnidae. Combining the observed behavioral characters of the emission of defensive secretion (near the ozopore, with liquid displacement through an integumentary groove, or in form of a jet) with the morphological types of the gland opening (direction of the integumentary dome that surrounds the gland opening, presence of two openings and the relationship between their sizes, and presence of a V-shaped cut at the anterior opening), we recognized eight patterns. In addition, we could examine the evolution of such traits within Gonyleptidae.

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