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A total of 5 000 species are known globally and about 179 species of Opiliones have been described from South Africa alone . They are divided into three suborders: the Palpatores are diurnal and active on the soil surface or on plants in forested areas, while the Cyphophthalmi and Laniatores are nocturnal and generally associated with soil, leaf litter and caves..
The opilionids or harvestmen are characterized by their long to very long legs that are frequently pseudo-segmented and flexible. Harvestmen are generally small, their sizes range between 2-4.5 mm. They are shy animals and are seldom seen. They climb shrubs and trees or are found under logs and stones. They mainly feed on living insects, snails (sometimes dead) or even plant sap. All the South African species are slow moving animals.
Currently 88 % of the opilionids recorded from South Africa are endemic. The highest diversity of Opiliones occurs in the forested high humidity areas of South Africa, south of the Cape Fold Mountains and east of the escarpment. The more central arid regions in South Africa is either poorly sampled or due to the drier conditions fewer species occur there e.g. Free State and Central and South Gauteng. The Western Cape and especially the Cape Peninsula has the greatest number of endemic genera. Frequently the diversity in small areas can be very high e.g. Table Mountains and its slopes are home to about 20 opilionid species. A few species are found only in caves.
No opilionids are protected. Little information is available on their ecology and behaviour. They are not endangered by collectors but habitat destruction such as deforestation and warmer climate may affect them.
Information may be used freely with acknowledgement to the source
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