Animals

The unique skill of the diving bell spider

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If you have ever spent time in the water you will have noticed how small spiders stay on the surface of the water. This is because spiders can’t breathe underwater. Like humans, spiders need oxygen to survive so they are smart enough not to go into the deep waters. This is a nice fact for anyone that is afraid of spiders. Simply dive underwater and they won’t be able to get you. The same is true of flies as well. If you are being bitten by mosquitos get underwater as quickly as you can. Of course, there are other dangers that lurk in the water too, but let’s not get into that. However, there is always an exception to the rule and the exception to the no spiders underwater rule is the diving bell.

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The diving bell spider, also known as the water spider, is the one type of spider that has been found that can go underwater, not only that but it can spend large periods of time underwater as well, on average only resurfacing once a day and it can survive far longer if it needs to. You may think that this is some exotic spider that you will never encounter but it is found throughout mainland Europe as well as Northern Asia. It prefers to reside in freshwater habitats so you can find it in lakes, ponds, canals, and marshes as well as streams or rivers if they are slow-moving. The spider has been found in all of Europe with the exception of Portugal, Greece, and Albania, it has been found in the British Isles, it has been found in other areas like Turkey, Russia, Iran, China, Korea, and Japan. It is not such a rare spider.

It is not a spider with gills either so how does it breathe underwater? Amazingly the spider weaves a web that is so thinly created it can hold a bubble of air inside. The spider then takes the bubble of air underwater and uses it to breathe whenever it requires. Not only this but it actually has the ability to take oxygen out of the water into the bubble. This means that the spider has a breathing apparatus that allows it to top up on oxygen without resurfacing. The bell structure is also used for mating purposes with the female spiders constructing egg sacs within their bells and laying up to 70 eggs inside.

If you are afraid of spiders and have previously found the water a safe haven then we are sorry to have delivered this bad news. Sadly it only gets worse from here. While the spider typically feeds on small aquatic insects and crustaceans and typically is eaten by frogs and fish, they will sometimes bite humans. Reports indicate that the bite is very painful, can cause inflammation, vomiting, and fever. However, the good news (we always like to give some good news) is that these symptoms will disappear after a few days and you will be perfectly fine.

These incredible spiders should offer a lot of inspiration to humans. While we have created an apparatus that allows us to stay underwater for long periods of time we have yet to create a technology that allows us to replenish our oxygen without resurfacing to above the water. The diving bell spider is actually able to take oxygen from the water and push carbon dioxide out of its bubble to allow it to breathe underwater for long periods of time. This insane idea could be turned into a breathing apparatus for people someday. 
While we have helmets and scuba diving equipment with large tanks these all fall short of actually creating breathable conditions underwater. Let’s see how these spiders inspire the inventors of the world and what they will come up with as a result.

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