Spiders Inherit the Seas

I am not alone in the fear of what uncertain creatures thrive in the farthest depths of the ocean. I believed that the closest thing to our creepy land ninja villain, also known as a spider, was the crab but, no, the ocean has spiders, too.

Though not technically arachnids, these arthropod sea spiders have evolved to be tough. They’ll inherit the seas as other marine life perish in increasingly warm and acidic oceans. Also, they can kick our pink human asses.

Colossendeis colossea, Mylène Bourque, Benthic Ecology Laboratory, Institut des sciences de la mer, Rimouski, Quebec

They’re as big as a dinner plate

Most sea spiders are only the size of your fingernail, except in the Antarctic Ocean. Oxygen packs more tightly in cold water, fueling exponential growth of sea spiders whose legs would dangle out of your hand if you held it on your palm.

Is it wrong I imagine one chasing a penguin and laugh?

They can out-crossfit humans

Caitlin Shishido, a doctoral student from Hawaii, led a study of giant sea spiders hailing from the coldest regions of our planet and concluded they’ll be “ok” with a reference I don’t want to hear in relation to enormous, invincible spiders:

It’s like Jurassic Park: ‘Life finds a way.’

Worried for the future of gigantic sea spiders as global temperatures rise, scientists put specimens through an “aquatic crossfit class” in water slowly increasing in temperature. While I’m sure they hated it as much as I hate crossfit in sweaty gyms, the spiders have an advantage: swiss-cheese skin. They open holes on their legs to absorb more oxygen.

I wish I could grow a third or fourth lung.

These spiders actually don’t have lungs at all, or gills. They just bask in an oxygen sea and are sustained.

They’re all legs

Like Jessica Rabbit.

Their organs are in their legs, giving them the appearance that they don’t have a body at all. Some even grow 10-12 legs!

Okay, not exactly like Jessica Rabbit.
Norbert Wu/Minden Pictures/FLPA

They’d be at home in Appalachia

Scientists initially believed the Southern Ocean giant sea spider fell into 20 distinct species. Further analysis of the DNA indicated there are actually only five species, and all the quirks are a result of inbreeding. Someone get these spiders a Tinder.

Thin skin a positive

Which is a good thing when doctoral students body-shame them into crossfit.

Giant sea spiders lack the calcified shells of other sea creatures like clams, which is good news in increasingly acidic seas. Shells are not the evolutionary protection of the future.

We might be seeing more of them

I sincerely hope we don’t see more of them in person. Invading our beaches. But their unique adaptations are making them increasingly interesting to the ecological scientific community.

Caitlin, extra fond of these guys, said:

Nobody really works on them, and they’re just really weird creatures. You don’t want them to disappear yet because we just don’t know much about them, and they could be really important.

Speak for yourself, Caitlin. Maybe you could use a Tinder, too.

A preserved specimen of the bottom-dwelling sea spider genus Ammothea. MARK CONLON/GETTY IMAGES

What do you think, are they creepier than land spiders? Let me know in the comments.

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