These Spiders Hunt Underwater, Prey on Fish

Image: Courtesy of Queensland Museum

Researchers have identified 23 new species of semi-aquatic spiders lurking near Australia’s streams and rivers.

Queensland Museum arachnologist Dr. Robert Raven, who led the research, described the spiders as being capable of running on water, diving, and swimming — some even remaining underwater for up to an hour to hunt.

“I found a spider that hunts prey on water using waves and associated vibrations, but soon after it became apparent that there were many more spiders that fell within this group and the scope had to be extended,” Raven said in a statement.

Female Dolomedes spider. Image: Courtesy of Queensland Museum

Water-loving spiders aren’t exactly new to science. Fishing spiders from the genus Dolomodes hunt aquatic insects and small fish by detecting vibrations on the water and then literally running across the surface to capture their victims. And diving bell spiders spend most of their lives underwater, breathing inside air bubbles like a scuba diver and resurfacing only to refill the bubbles with more oxygen.

But in addition to their underwater abilities, Dr. Raven was also fascinated by the striking appearance and wild variations in coloration among the newly discovered species.

“The spiders in the Ornodolomedes genus are some of the most beautiful Australian water spiders I have ever seen in my career due to their various patterns and colors – the photos do not do them justice,” he said.

Ornodolomedes benrevelli spider, named after photographer Ben Revell. Image: Courtesy of Queensland Museum

The new species include spiders that were described more than 150 years ago but were never again seen until now and come from a range of genera including Dolomedes, Ornodolomedes, Megadolomedes, Dendrolycosa, and Mangromedes.

Each spider has been named after a well-known public figure, including Jack Nicholson (Ornodolomedes nicholsoni), Professor Brian Greene (Dolomedes briangreenei), and famous Aussie surfer Mick Fanning (Ornodolomedes mickfanningi).

And you thought Australia couldn’t get any more crazy.

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