Trechalea extensa sous l'eau

This spider’s ability allows it to stay underwater for more than half an hour

Most animals are able to swim when they need to cross a pond or stream, for example. But among them, very few can stay underwater for a certain period of time if they are not amphibians. However, researchers have just discovered an ability that allows a new species of spider to stay underwater for more than 30 minutes.

The species in question is called Trechalea extensa and she has a way of avoiding the inconveniences a spider can suffer that stays underwater. A submerged spider can indeed lose heat, run out of oxygen, but also be unable to feed. According to the study carried out by scientists, Trechalea extensa, which is a tropical spider found in Costa Rica, was able to stay underwater for 32 minutes.

Trechalea extensa underwater
Credits Lindsey Swierk

Lindsey Swierk, a Binghamton University biologist and first author, said that for many species, getting wet and cold is almost as risky as being in the presence of a predator. She added that previously it was not known that this species of spider could hide like this under water and for so long.

The discovery of the spider’s ability

In July 2019, the researchers were on a mission near a stream that is located at the Las Cruces Biological Station, in the province of Puntarenas in Costa Rica. It was there that they saw a specimen of Trechalea extensa on a rock. The scientists wanted to capture the spider but it headed for the surface of the water. Instead of continuing to the surface as spiders of this species usually do, the specimen dove underwater and positioned itself about 25 cm deep near a rock. The spider remained in this position for more than half an hour.

When the arachnid decided to get out of the water, the researchers were able to capture it. They also managed to film and photograph what the spider had done underwater.

The Spider’s Secret

This is a unique observation, but scientists have found that the spider can survive underwater thanks to a layer of air surrounding its entire body. In fact, the hairs that cover the spider are so hydrophobic that they can create a kind of air shield. This shield protects the spider from the negative effects of water.

According to Swierk, the shield is so complete that the spider appears to have been immersed in silver. This layer of air could serve to keep the breathing openings away from the water and also minimize the heat loss caused by the cold water of the stream.

Clearly, we still have a lot to learn about spiders.

SOURCE: sciencealert

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