In case you thought nature was all about cute, fuzzy animals and sweet-smelling flowers, here’s a swimming spider that eats fish and frogs.
Endemic to freshwater streams in Queensland, Australia, the semi-aquatic arachnid was recently discovered close to Brisbane, before being presented this week at the World Science Festival, which is being held in the city.
Describing how the new species attacks its prey, Robert Raven of the Queensland Museum told Mashable Australia that “these spiders sit there on the water and then all of a sudden an insect will hit the water and the spider races out to get it, grabs it, dives under the water and then swims back to the shore and starts eating it.”
Known as Dolomedes briangreenei, the spider spends most of its time lurking on the banks of rivers in search of small waves caused by insects hitting the water, and has been named in honor of World Science Festival co-founder Brian Greene.
Commenting on the discovery, Greene said: “With the announcement last month of humankind’s first detection of gravitational waves – ripples on the surface of space and time – I am particularly honored to be so closely associated with a spider that has its own deep affinity for waves.”
Capable of eating cane toads, tadpoles, frogs, and fish up to three or four times its own size, the spider is in fact one of many species of arachnid known to prey on aquatic and amphibious animals. A paper that appeared in the journal PLOS ONE in 2014 documented the existence of numerous semi-aquatic, fish-eating arachnids, which it claims are “geographically widespread, occurring on all continents except Antarctica.”
According to the study, these spiders are able to kill prey up five times their own body size thanks to the use of powerful poisons, with the average prey being 2.2 times the length of the predator.
Despite being roughly the size of a human palm, Dolomedes briangreenei is not thought to present any threat to people.