May 24, 2022
overcast clouds Clouds 66 °F

Spider can hide underwater for 30 minutes

The tropical spider Trechalea extensa was observed spending about 30 minutes underwater. While submerged, it kept a The tropical spider Trechalea extensa was observed spending about 30 minutes underwater. While submerged, it kept a
The tropical spider Trechalea extensa was observed spending about 30 minutes underwater. While submerged, it kept a "film" of air over its entire body. Image Credit: Lindsey Swierk.

A tropical spider species uses a “film” of air to hide underwater from predators for as long as 30 minutes, according to faculty at Binghamton University.

Lindsey Swierk, assistant research professor of biological sciences, observed a large tropical spider (Trechalea extensa) fleeing from humans and hiding underwater; this species was not previously known to use water to escape. Swierk had previously observed a Costa-Rican lizard species that was able to stay underwater for 16 minutes to hide from predators.

“For a lot of species, getting wet and cold is almost as risky to survival as dealing with their predators to begin with,” Swierk said. “Trechalea spiders weren’t previously known to hide underwater from threats — and certainly not for so long.”

The spider spent about 30 minutes underwater. While submerged, it kept a “film” of air over its entire body.

“The film of air surrounding the spider when it is underwater appears to be held in place by hydrophobic hairs covering the spider’s entire body surface,” Swierk said. “It’s so complete that the spider almost looks like it’s been dipped in silver. The film of air might serve to keep the respiratory openings away from water, since these spiders are air-breathing. The film of air might also help to minimize thermal loss to the cold stream water that the spider submerges itself in.”

According to Swierk, this observation provides new insight into how species can cope with the problem of finding refuge underwater.

“These spiders, and any animal hiding from predators in general, have to do their best to manage risk,” Swierk said. “Risk of predation, yes, but also risk of the costs they’ll experience by fleeing. For some species that means leaving territory or mates unguarded, or maybe spending stored energy in a sprint. In this species, potential risks of underwater refuge use can include lack of respiration and a loss of body heat. There are many more questions to dig into starting from this first observation.”

This observation, “Diving behavior in a Neotropical spider (Trechalea extensa) as a potential antipredator tactic,” was published in Ethology.