Pycnogonida – Sea spiders

Undergo molting to grow and reproduce

Sea spiders, with their otherworldly appearance and unique adaptations, are captivating inhabitants of marine ecosystems. Despite their common name, they are not true spiders and lack the venomous fangs typically associated with terrestrial arachnids. Instead, they possess remarkable characteristics that set them apart and contribute to their ecological importance.

These enigmatic marine arthropods are instantly recognizable by their extraordinarily long and thin legs, which impart a fragile and ethereal appearance. Sea spiders are exceptionally adapted to their underwater habitats, showcasing adaptability that spans diverse marine environments, from shallow coastal waters to the darkest abysses. Their ability to thrive at various temperature conditions and ocean depths highlights their resilience and ecological significance.

Sea spiders predominantly use filter feeding, a dietary preference that involves preying on small invertebrates such as hydroids, soft corals, and sea anemones. Their specialized long proboscis is an efficient feeding tool, allowing them to effectively extract nutrients from their prey. In this manner, sea spiders contribute to regulating populations of these marine invertebrates, playing a role in maintaining ecosystem balance.

Interestingly, sea spiders exhibit a distinctive respiratory system that sets them apart from most other arthropods. Sea spiders rely on a different mechanism than creatures with specialized respiratory organs such as gills or book lungs. They absorb oxygen directly from the surrounding water through their cuticle, a remarkable adaptation that enables them to exist in oxygen-rich marine environments.