May 13, 2006

A Father's Nursery

Long antennae inspect the harvestman's nest constantly.

Male harvestmen, (Opiliones or daddy-long-legs if you like) guard small depressions on the forest floor, hidden carefully from passing predators. Females visit during the night, appraising the keep for one reason: These depressions are nests - a harvestman's nursery.

If a female is satisfied with the nest & its owner, they mate with the male and deposit a fertilized egg within the depression. The male harvestman tends these eggs, hefting them from shallow nooks, rolling each carefully within adept pedipalps and brushing them free of debris.

Throughout the animal kingdom the male is forced to take a role in the rearing of offspring. Not only in arthropods like harvestmen, but with seahorses (the male carries the young) and Emperor penguins (males protect the chicks from the bitter Antarctic winds for months while the female retrieves food).

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