Arachnids are a class (Arachnida) of joint-legged invertebrate animals in the subphylum Chelicerata. All arachnids have eight legs, although in some species the front pair may convert to a sensory function. The term is derived from the Greek word ἀράχνη (aráchnē), meaning "spider".
Almost all arachnids are terrestrial. However, some inhabit freshwater environments and, with the exception of the pelagic zone, marine environments as well. They comprise over 100,000 named species, including spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, and mites.
Almost all adult arachnids have four pairs of legs, and arachnids may be easily distinguished from insects by this fact, since insects have six legs. However, arachnids also have two further pairs of appendages that have become adapted for feeding, defense, and sensory perception. The first pair, the chelicerae, serve in feeding and defense. The next pair of appendages, the pedipalps have been adapted for feeding, locomotion, and/or reproductive functions. In Solifugae, the palps are quite leg-like, so that these animals appear to have ten legs. The larvae of mites and Ricinulei have only six legs; the fourth pair appears when they moult into nymphs. However, there are also adult mites with six, or even four legs.
Arachnids are further distinguished from insects by the fact they have no antennae or wings. Their body is organized into two tagma called the prosoma, or cephalothorax, and the opisthosoma, or abdomen. The cephalothorax is derived from the fusion of the cephalon (head) and the thorax, and is usually covered by a single, unsegmented carapace. The abdomen is segmented in the more primitive forms, but varying degrees of fusion between the segments occur in many groups. It is typically divided into a preabdomen and postabdomen, although this is only clearly visible in scorpions, and in some orders, such as the Acari, the abdominal sections are completely fused.
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