In what could perhaps have a profound effect on how the divers of the future could breathe underwater, a group of scientists have conducted a series of experiments at the Adelaide University, on a very unique species of Arachnids, called the Diving Bell spider, to understand how exactly these spiders can survive in underwater environments that have very little life sustaining oxygen. The spider is able to breathe underwater by using an air bubble which in fact functions as an oxygen tank for them. The study, conducted by Seymour and Stefan Hetz from Humboldt University, seeks to analyze how exactly these arachnids fare in low oxygen, underwater conditions. For the research, the scientist and his team took a series of measurements about quantum of oxygen in the bubble and the surrounding water. From this data the team calculated the amount of oxygen flowing into the bubble and then calculated spider’s oxygen consumption rate. The study found out that the spider could extract oxygen from the most stagnant water even on a hot day without any difficulty. The study also aimed at finding how long the spiders could survive in the pocket of air before resurfacing.
Like eight-legged scuba divers, some spiders can breathe underwater using an air bubble as an oxygen tank of sorts.
Argyroneta Aquatica, popularly known as diving bell is one of those species of spiders that constantly live under water. In fact, it is the only spider in world which spends its entire life under water. For a constant oxygen supply to this small creature of 10 to 15 millimeters, the nature has worked out a wonderful mechanism. The spider creates a bubble in which the oxygen remains trapped and which hangs to the spider’s body by the hair on its abdomen and legs.
There is a considerable difference in the sizes of male and female spiders of this species. The males of Diving Bells are approximately 30% larger than the size of their female counterparts. This anatomical difference is quite unusual in the spider world. The plausible reason behind this difference is the different activity level of male and female spiders. Since male spiders lead a more active hunting life, their bodies require more strength and vigor to overcome the resistance of water. The web of these spiders serves as underwater gills, wherein they can exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen in the surrounding water.
- The Female Spider: The female spider spends almost her entire life in her own web. They create these “diving bells” web and use them for all their activities like digestion of food, mating, giving birth and then raising offspring. They occasionally come out of their diving bells to the surface only when they have to replenish their air supply and that of their webs.
- The Male Spider: The male spiders also make their webs, but their webs are smaller than that of females. Males don’t replenish their oxygen supply as often as their female counterparts. The males lead a more active hunting life. They prefer to stay clinged with their webs rather than swimming freely.
- The web of the spider: The web also acts as a gill for them. The structure of the web permits gas exchange from surrounding water. Oxygen gets replenished and CO2 gets dispelled due to the difference in their osmotic pressure.
- Prey: These spiders prey on various aquatic insects and other crustaceons. They have big fangs, which can easily pierce human skin and their bite is supposed to be very painful. These spiders fall prey to frogs and fish.
- Mating: For the purpose of mating, the male spider makes a web near the web of female spider. Then he breaks through the female spider’s wall and mating takes place in female spider’s bell. After mating, the spider lays 30 to 70 eggs.
- Habitat: The spider is found in Europe, Northern Aisa and in the north of Sahara Desert. Its entire life span is around 2 years. The spiders are basically velvety grey in color but due to the trapped air around their bodies, they appear to be silvery in color.