Diving bell spiders live the majority of their lives completely submerged beneath the surface, encapsulated by a silk-woven bubble that serves as an oxygenating mechanism — similar to a fish’s gills.
Argyroneta aquatica is an amazing, air-breathing insect that resides in freshwater ponds and streams throughout Europe and parts of Asia. This particular species is capable of living underwater due to the intricate creation of a silk web that forms an oxygen-filled bubble, allowing the spider to breathe. This web is attached to waterbed vegetation that holds it in place.
The diving bell spider refills it’s living chambers by returning to the surface in intervals and using its hairs to move air bubbles back down underwater. They are able to hunt, procreate, and incubate within their underwater houses independent of any changes in the outside environment.
Previous research had concluded the spiders needed to surface every 20-40 minutes in order to adequately resupply their oxygen levels — until now. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology reveals that diving bell spiders only need to surface for air once per day.
Experts studied the behavior of diving bell spiders collected from the Eider River and placed in aquariums filled with stagnant water in order to simulate their natural habitat on a hot day. Professor Roger Seymour and Dr Stefan Hetz inserted tiny optode sensors into the spider’s bubble to measure oxygen levels and compare them to levels in the surrounding environment.
A striking similarity was found between the spider’s bubble houses and the gills of aquatic organisms, serving as the revelation of an evolutionary adaptation that gives the diving bell spider an uncanny aptitude for survival.