Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Sea Spiders?!

Yes – there are spider-like animals in the ocean!

Globally, more than 1300 species have been identified.

But, even though they are jointed-legged invertebrates (arthropods) and most do have 8 legs, they are not true spiders. They are a special group of arthropods called the Pycnogonida. They have a mouth part called a probisis, a flexible tube that they use to mix digestive chemicals with their food and then suck it up.

Some species have additional leg-like appendages near their mouths. Often only the male has these structures so that they can take care of the eggs by carrying them.

“Sea spiders” grazing on red soft cora

The species in the image to the right is one of these locals and these animals are only about  about 1 cm across.  They have been given the common name “yellow hairy sea spider” (Tanystylum anthomasti).  The hairy parts are believed to help the animals feel and sense chemicals.

I have only ever seen this sea spider on red soft coral colonies (Gersimia rubiformis), as you see in the picture to the right. They appear to feed (graze) on the bushy polyps of the soft coral.

One of the things I find fascinating about sea spiders is that they have a very thin external skeleton (exoskeleton) and as a result don’t need a respiratory system; they can “breath” through their skins.

The pictures at the following link let you get a better look at them and at how the soft coral is grazed – click here!

7 Responses to “Sea Spiders?!”

    • jackiehildering

      Hello Nicole. So glad that you have an appreciation of them! I was afraid that some readers might have an “Ew” like response. Then, here you come with the first comment sharing the perspective that they are beautiful. Thank you!

      Reply
      • Nicole

        I didn’t know our waters were so beautiful …I only ever saw ..dark cold water and a few flying whales .

      • jackiehildering

        Hello Nicole, So appreciate the feedback and knowing that this is reaching students. It is such a huge privilege to have the experiences I do on and under the ocean, I want to open this window to others and it is so valuable to know that even for locals, this may be happening.

  1. Carine

    Wow I didn’t know what to expect but these creatures are pretty in their own special way! Thumbs up for the awesome pictures!

    Reply
  2. Nicole

    I think your site is awesome ..I work at a school and have shown this to students .
    Nice pictures and just the right amount of info .

    Reply

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