DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Diving bell spider abdomen setae (Argyroneta aquatica). Also known as the water spider, this is the only arachnid species to live entirely underwater. In order to breathe underwater the spider traps a bubble of air near its abdomen. The diving bell spider first spins a dome-shaped, silk web amongst underwater plants. Then the spider comes to the surface and traps air bubbles between its abdomen (and legs).The abdomen has special feathered hairs or setae that help hold the bubble(s) near its body. It carries the bubble(s) back to the silk web where a large bubble forms. The spider lives within the air bell and darts out to catch prey, mate and lay eggs. Recently researchers have found that the bubble acts like a gill, extracting dissolved oxygen from the water and dispersing carbon dioxide. Thus the diving bell spider only has to surface once a day to replenish the air. Magnification: x215 when shortest.
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