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Spiders Without Webs

June 2nd, 2015

Spiders Without Webs

If it looks like a spider, and walks like a spider – then an arachnid by any other name would be as creepy and crawly and long-legged.  And this type is called Chelicerata, after its unique mouths that protrude like claws.  Yet scientists cannot agree on whether to categorize these sea creatures as spiders due to their many unique characteristics.

They do have spindly legs, and move around generally as any self-respecting land-spider would.  Yet they travel across the sea floors, whether in great depths up to 9,000 feet or in shallow seas, very slowly.  They don’t need to move swiftly, just as the character Paulie from Goodfellas, because they “don’t need to move for anybody.” Chelicerata feed on creatures that are even slower: sponges and slugs and worms.  Because the sharp-jawed mouth, known as a proboscis, can extend outward, this spider “can pierce the prey and start sucking out the fluids,” says Claudia Arango, a marine biologist from Queensland Museum in Australia.

The creatures vary as widely in color as they do in habitat, with somewhat stouter and much more colorful specimens living the shallow seas.  Yet all types possess exotic features that make marine biologists question their classification as spiders.  Their abdomens are so tiny that their guts and genitals are located in their legs.  In terms of anatomy they aren’t related to any other animal on the planet, but in fact more closely resemble early arthropods that were among the first creatures to ever inhabit this planet – 500 million years ago.

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