long legs can also use them for swimming. Nevertheless,
sea spiders seem rather clumsy in their movements and
are usually very slow.
Under the microscope I was also able to document
another remarkable feature of this group of animals,
the pair of ovigers that serve to carry the eggs. When
it comes to breeding and carrying the young, sea spiders follow an unusual course, although to date mating
has been observed in only a small number of species.
The female deposits eggs on one or more of her walking legs using her genital pore, and these are fertilized
by the male, suspended upside-down beneath her. (Little
is known about this process.) The male
then collects up the eggs with his pair of
ovigers and releases mucus from glands
on the joints of his walking legs to hold
the egg masses in place. These “packets”
can contain up to 1,000 eggs and are carried around by the male.
idea. Keeping a small species that lives on a host that is
easy to keep should not only prove fairly easy, but would
also allow close observation and study of the behavior of
these highly interesting creatures.
Finally, for all the arachnophobes waiting to hear
it: No, they are not dangerous and certainly not deadly. None of the sea spider species studied by science is
known to have a venomous bite.
Gosliner, T., D. Behrens, and G.C. Williams. 1996. Coral Reef
Animals of the Indo-Pacific. Sea Challengers, Monterey, California.
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The pantopod male can fertilize eggs several times in a single season. It seems
likely that given a suitable food supply,
pantopods could be bred successfully in
the aquarium, as there is no planktonic
larval stage. This has been hotly debated in
various marine forums, because, as I have
already mentioned, the majority of pantopod species that turn up in the aquarium often live as parasites on the tissues
of their host animals. The sea spider that
turned up in my aquarium was probably
a member of the family Callipallenidae.
Unlike some other groups, the male and
female in this family have serrated ovigers.
The precise identification of the species is,
however, very complicated and is impossible for a pantopod novice like myself.
The desire of most aquarists to be rid
of these unwelcome guests as quickly as
possible is understandable; unlike sea
spiders, corals are acquired intentionally, and sometimes for a considerable
amount of money. In retrospect, however, I greatly regret having preserved my
sea spider in alcohol for photography under the microscope, and I would like to
end this article by agreeing with Daniel
Knop, who has suggested that the parasitic snail Diminovula aurantiomaculata
and other such species should be deliberately maintained in a small species tank
with a suitable host animal. In the case of
sea spiders this would be a very attractive
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