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Diving Spider
female and male
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Family: Cybaeidae
Genus: Argyroneta
Latreille, 1804
Species: A. aquatica
Binomial name
Argyroneta aquatica
(Clerck, 1757)
1 species

Araneus aquaticus
Aranea aquatica
Aranea urinatoria
Aranea amphibia
Clubiona fallax

The diving bell spider or water spider, Argyroneta aquatica, is a spider which lives entirely under water, even though it could survive on land.


The species Argyroneta aquatica is found in Northern and Central Europe and up to latitude 62°N and northern Asia. It is the only spider that spends its whole life under water. However it breathes air, which it traps in a bubble held by hairs on its abdomen and legs.[1]

Females build underwater "diving bell" webs which they fill with air and use for digesting prey, molting, mating and raising offspring. They live almost entirely within the bells, darting out to catch prey animals that touch the bell or the silk threads that anchor it. However they have to surface occasionally to renew their personal air supplies and those of their webs. Males also build bells, but these are smaller and the males replenish their bells' oxygen supply less often. The males also have a more active hunting style. Although they are better swimmers than females, they prefer to cling to silk threads or underwater vegetation while moving.[1]

Very unusually for spiders, males of this species are about 30% percent larger than females, possibly because their more active hunting style requires greater strength to overcome the resistance of the water and to counteract the buoyancy of their mobile air supplies. The sizes of females may be limited by the amount of energy they put into building and maintaining their larger bells.[1]

The appearance of the diving bell gave rise to the genus name Argyroneta, Latin for "silvery net".[2] However, frequent replenishment is unnecessary because the structure of the bell permits gas exchange with the surrounding water: oxygen is replenished and carbon dioxide expelled due to differences in osmotic pressure.[citation needed] This system has been referred to as "the water spider's aqua-lung of air bubbles," but it is actually more advanced than the real Aqualung, which needs to be refilled frequently with compressed air, not having the option of osmotic exchange.[citation needed]

The prey of these spiders includes various aquatic insects and crustaceans. Their fangs are robust enough to pierce human skin and the bite is said to be quite painful, causing localised inflammation and feverish symptoms.[3] The spiders themselves fall prey to frogs and fish.[citation needed]

Prior to mating, the male constructs a diving bell adjacent to the female's before spinning a tunnel from his bell to hers and then breaking through her wall to gain entrance.[citation needed] Mating takes place in the female's bell, after which the female spider lays from 30 to 70 eggs there.[citation needed]

The spider is found in ponds near the palaearctic region, which includes Europe, northern Asia, and Africa north of the Sahara desert.[citation needed] It lives for approximately two years.[citation needed] It is velvet-grey, although the trapped air around its body gives it a silvery appearance.[citation needed]

One subspecies is native to Japan:


  1. ^ a b c Schütz, D., and Taborsky, M. (2003). "Adaptations to an aquatic life may be responsible for the reversed sexual size dimorphism in the water spider, Argyroneta aquatica". Evolutionary Ecology Research 5 (1): 105–117. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  2. ^ Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2000). Aquatic Life of the World. Marshall Cavendish Corporation. p. 617. ISBN 0761471804. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  3. ^ Piper, Ross (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press.
  • Platnick, Norman I. (2008): version 8.5. American Museum of Natural History.

External links

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