Spiders are among some of the most amazing, adaptable and versatile predators on earth. It might not seem like they could be masters of hunting on the water, but one group in particular has mastered this very difficult habitat. Water Spiders, as the name suggests, can hunt creatures both on and underneath the water. Unfortunately, while I have always been excited to see one of these spiders for myself they are extremely elusive. One night, while walking at a creek nearby where I live, I heard an unusual pitter pattering sound. Upon checking it, I saw this incredibly spectacular spider pouncing of into the water below a footbridge!
As you can see, this was a very large, but spectacular animal to actually run across. The legspan here is extremely large, easily getting over 6″ long and the spider was significantly bigger than my hand (with legs spread out, I should note).
This photo shows off more of the animal in easier to see detail, even if a leaf did conspire to semi-ruin my overall photo. I should say this was an incredibly challenging photography specimen, because I had to largely guess many of these shots in the complete dark (I had no source of light for the camera other than its own flash), so I’m actually pretty pleased with this photo especially.
Finally my photography subject became frustrated with my attentions and did their most spectacular trick – for a spider – by diving under the water!
After this I decided to leave the animal be and continue on with my night time walk, but it was an incredible creature to both see and very luckily, photograph. Water spiders like this one are adept hunters, running down small lizards or amphibians on land, or diving under the water to catch small fish or tadpoles. Effectively the spider doubles the potential kinds of prey it can hunt in the watery areas that it lives, while its sheer size affords it considerable protection. Spiders like this can ‘dive’ because their hairs on their cephalothorax (the front bit with the fangs) and abdomen trap a bubble of oxygen around the spider – allowing it to breathe.
As a side note, it’s worth realizing that Water Spiders aren’t the only ones who can do this trick. Be wary picking up spiders off the bottom off a pool, because although they aren’t specifically adapted to take advantage of going underwater, spiders like Funnel Webs can survive drowning (for some time) using this same trick. Just because it might look dead under the water, doesn’t mean that it actually is.