In high tide or in low tide, the Bob Marley spider will be by your side

December 28, 2017, 8:15 a.m.
Desis bobmarleyi, Bob Marley spider
Photo: Robert Raven/Pensoft

A new species of spider has been found living along the coast of Queensland, Australia, where it relies on some impressive adaptations to survive between the tides. The spider roams around during low tide, hunting small prey amid the surf. When high tide arrives, it creates an air chamber of out silk, and hunkers down in a barnacle shell, coral or kelp until the water recedes again.

This intertidal spider is a "truly marine" species, say researchers from the Queensland Museum and the University of Hamburg, who published their findings in the journal Evolutionary Systematics. They named the species Desis bobmarleyi after the legendary musician Bob Marley, "whose song 'High Tide or Low Tide' inspired us," they write, "as it lives in a 'high tide low tide' habitat."

The spider doesn't flee the intertidal zone when high tide arrives, instead weaving a silk-sealed air chamber where it can hide. When the tide goes down, it hurries back out to hunt small invertebrates before the ocean forces it to take another break.

The species is mainly red and brown, with orange-brown legs that feature a dense layer of thin, gray hair-like structures, the researchers write. The females seem to be larger, with the studied female specimen measuring nearly 9 millimeters in length, compared with about 6 millimeters for the male. The researchers still aren't sure how widely distributed the species is, but so far they've recorded it living in intertidal zones of the Great Barrier Reef on the northeastern coast of Queensland — yet another example of the amazing biodiversity found in and around this famous reef system.

Desis bobmarleyi, Bob Marley spider These images show the spider's habitat at high tide (A) and low tide (B), as well as the spider on coral (C) and the species' male holotype (D). (Photos: Paul Hoye and Robert Raven/Pensoft)

The researchers also use their new study to honor 19th-century German naturalist Amalie Dietrich, who traveled from Europe to Australia in 1863 and "took risks on a then-unexplored continent to elevate herself from poverty and oppression." Dietrich helped create the Godeffroy Collection of arachnids, they note, "the primary taxonomic reference for spiders of Australasia."

As for the namesake of their newly identified marine spider, the researchers offer this explanation:

"Reggae legend Bob Marley certainly had a different background but shared with Dietrich and other explorers some character traits: adventurous and resilient at heart, he liberated himself and his peers from poverty and hopelessness," they write. "He took to music, not nature, but left traces through songs that teach optimism and independence of the mind, rather than hate and passive endurance. The song 'High Tide or Low Tide' promotes love and friendship through all struggles of life."

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