Can Spiders Swim? A Fascinating Look

Spiders are fascinating creatures that have adapted to survive in a wide range of environments, including water.

You may be wondering, “Can spiders swim?” The answer is yes, some spider species are capable of swimming and have even developed unique adaptations to help them thrive in aquatic environments.

In this article, we will explore the different spider species that can swim, their swimming techniques, and how they can hunt and survive underwater. So, let’s dive in and learn more about these amazing arachnids!

Spider Anatomy: Adaptations for Aquatic Life

To understand whether spiders can swim, we must first explore their remarkable anatomy and the adaptations that equip them for life in water.

While spiders are predominantly land-dwelling creatures, certain species have evolved specific characteristics that allow them to navigate aquatic environments with relative ease.

Spider: They also live underwater (Team Candiru)

Water-Repellent Exoskeleton

  • Spiders possess a remarkable exoskeleton composed of chitinous plates that cover their bodies.
  • This exoskeleton serves as a protective layer, but it also plays a crucial role in repelling water.
  • The waxy surface of the exoskeleton prevents water from penetrating and weighing down the spider, allowing it to remain buoyant and agile in the water.

Leg Structure

  • The legs of aquatic spider species are often longer and equipped with fine, hydrophobic hairs.
  • These hairs create a thin layer of air around the legs, enhancing buoyancy and reducing drag as the spider moves through the water.
  • Additionally, the legs are well-segmented, providing excellent control and maneuverability while swimming.
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Air-Trapping Abilities

  • Some spider species have developed remarkable air-trapping mechanisms that aid in their survival underwater.
  • These spiders create a small air bubble or “diving bell” that they carry with them underwater.
  • The diving bell acts as a temporary air supply, enabling the spider to breathe while submerged.
  • This adaptation is particularly evident in the fascinating Diving Bell Spider (Argyroneta aquatic).

Enhanced Vision

  • While vision may not be the primary sense relied upon by spiders, certain aquatic species have adapted to have better visual capabilities underwater.
  • Their eyes are designed to detect movement and prey in the water, allowing them to effectively hunt and navigate their aquatic habitats.
These adaptations collectively provide spiders with the necessary tools to venture into water and explore aquatic environments. 

However, not all spider species possess these adaptations, and their swimming capabilities can vary significantly. 
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Spider Species That Can Swim

While not all spider species have the ability to swim, there are several remarkable arachnids that have adapted to thrive in aquatic environments.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these spiders.

Can Spiders Swim? : Spider Species That Can Swim

Diving Bell Spider (Argyroneta aquatic)

The Diving Bell Spider, scientifically known as Argyroneta aquatica, is a unique species that has truly embraced an aquatic lifestyle.

These spiders can be found in freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams across Europe and parts of Asia.

What sets the Diving Bell Spider apart is its exceptional ability to construct and utilize a diving bell.

This remarkable structure is a silken web that is spun beneath the water’s surface, anchored to vegetation or other submerged objects. The spider creates an air-filled chamber within this web, serving as a refuge and a place to store captured prey.

The Argyroneta aquatica spider goes back to its diving bell from time to time to get more air. It uses the air in the bell to breathe while it’s underwater, which is pretty impressive for a spider that lives in water.

Fishing Spider (Genus Dolomedes)

The Fishing Spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, encompass a diverse group of spiders found across the globe.

These arachnids are known for their excellent swimming abilities and are often found near bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams.

Fishing spiders taking Wisconsin lakes (TMJ4 News)

Fishing Spiders have elongated legs that enable them to traverse the water’s surface with ease. They rely on surface tension, using their hydrophobic leg hairs to glide and navigate effortlessly.

These spiders are incredibly agile and can move swiftly across the water to capture prey, including small aquatic insects and even small fish.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus)

Another fascinating member of the Dolomedes is the Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus). As the name suggests, these spiders display an intriguing behavior of using their bodies as rafts to traverse the water’s surface. They can be found in wetland habitats across Europe.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) (Jack Perks Wildlife Media)

Raft Spiders are well-equipped for their aquatic lifestyle. Their bodies are covered in hydrophobic hairs that repel water, aiding in buoyancy.

They use their front legs as paddles, while their middle and hind legs extend outwards to increase stability as they navigate the water.

These skilled swimmers are formidable predators, preying upon various aquatic insects and small invertebrates that cross their path.

Dolomedes briangreenei

A recently discovered species of fishing spider, Dolomedes briangreenei, named after the physicist Brian Greene, has been found in Queensland, Australia.

Meet Brian: The Australian Giant Spider (TheLipTV2)

This spider species showcases impressive swimming abilities, using the same hydrophobic leg hairs and surface tension techniques seen in other fishing spiders.

Dolomedes briangreenei has garnered attention for its remarkable size, with some individuals spanning up to 20 centimeters in leg span.

Despite their large size, they are agile swimmers, capable of darting across the water’s surface to capture prey.

These spider species are just a small sample of the amazing aquatic spiders found around the world. 

While some spiders have developed special adaptations to survive and hunt in water, 

Each spider species has its own unique set of adaptations and behaviors that help it thrive in its particular environment.
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How Do Spiders Hunt on Water

Spiders have come up with clever methods to catch their prey while swimming. Although hunting in water presents a number of challenges, these arachnids have developed impressive strategies to capture their meals.

Here we’ll explore how spiders hunt while swimming.

How Do Spiders Hunt on Water

Surface Skimming

  • Many aquatic spider species have the ability to skim across the water’s surface, using it as their hunting ground.
  • They rely on their hydrophobic leg hairs, which repel water and allow them to glide effortlessly.
  • By propelling themselves forward with their legs, spiders can quickly and stealthily approach unsuspecting prey that resides on or just beneath the water’s surface.

Ambush Predation

  • Some spiders adopt an ambush strategy to catch their prey while swimming.
  • They position themselves strategically near vegetation or other objects in the water, patiently waiting for an opportunity.
  • Once a potential meal comes within striking distance, the spider swiftly lunges forward, immobilizing its prey with venomous fangs.

Web Building

  • While not all spiders build traditional webs underwater, certain species have adapted their web-building skills to aquatic environments.
  • These spiders construct specialized underwater webs, often positioned beneath the water’s surface or anchored to aquatic vegetation.
  • These webs serve as effective traps for small aquatic insects and other invertebrates. When the unsuspecting prey becomes entangled in the web, the spider quickly seizes the opportunity to capture and subdue its meal.
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Pursuit Predation

  • Some spiders, especially larger species like fishing spiders, employ pursuit predation while swimming.
  • With their exceptional swimming abilities, they actively chase down their prey, using their agility and speed to close in for the capture.
  • These spiders rely on their keen vision to detect movement on the water’s surface, allowing them to spot potential prey and initiate a pursuit.

Prey Detection

  • Spiders have adapted to sense vibrations and movements on the water’s surface, allowing them to detect the presence of potential prey.
  • Once the prey is detected, the spider utilizes its specialized hunting techniques to secure its next meal.
The ways that spiders catch prey while swimming show how adaptable and smart they are in aquatic environments. 

It's amazing to see how they have figured out different tactics to survive and hunt in water.
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Can a Spider Survive in Water?

Spiders have varying abilities to survive in water, depending on their species and adaptations. While some spiders are more adapted to aquatic environments, others may struggle to stay afloat for extended periods.

Diving Bell Spider ,Lives Underwater (Animal Planet)
 

Let’s address some common questions regarding spiders and their ability to survive in water.

Do Spiders Float in Water?

Most spiders have a natural tendency to float in water due to their hydrophobic exoskeleton. The waxy layer covering their bodies repels water, allowing them to remain buoyant on the water’s surface.

However, not all spiders are strong swimmers or capable of staying afloat indefinitely. Some spiders may float temporarily but may struggle to navigate or survive in water for extended periods

Can Spiders Breathe Underwater?

Spiders are air-breathing arachnids, and their respiratory systems are not adapted for extracting oxygen from water like fish or other aquatic creatures.

However, certain spider species have developed adaptations to allow them to breathe while submerged. For example, the Diving Bell Spider creates a diving bell, a silken structure filled with air, which enables it to breathe while underwater.

As explained above some spiders can trap air bubbles around their bodies or use air pockets in their webs to access oxygen while submerged.

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How Long Can Spiders Live Underwater?

The duration that spiders can survive underwater varies depending on their species, adaptations, and environmental conditions.

Some species, like the Diving Bell Spider, can remain submerged for extended periods, thanks to their air-trapping abilities. These spiders may spend hours or even days underwater, resurfacing periodically to replenish their oxygen supply.

However, other spider species that lack such adaptations may struggle to survive for more than a few minutes or hours underwater.

How Do SPIDERS Live Underwater (GIMMEFACTS)

Can Brown Recluse Spiders Swim?

Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are typically found on land and are not good swimmers.

They are not adapted to live in water and are not able to swim or move well in aquatic environments. Although they may get wet or encounter water, they don’t have the necessary adaptations to survive or hunt in water.

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Can Wolf Spiders Swim?

Wolf spiders (from the Lycosidae family) can swim to some extent, but their swimming abilities may differ depending on the species.

Some wolf spiders can move across the surface of the water using their water-repellent leg hairs, similar to how fishing spiders swim.

However, their swimming skills are usually not as advanced or specialized as those of spiders that live exclusively in water.

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Can Crab Spiders Swim?

Crab spiders (from the Thomisidae family) are mainly land-dwelling spiders and are not good swimmers.

They usually live on plants and flowers and wait for their prey to come to them. Although they may get wet or come across water, they don’t have the necessary adaptations or swimming abilities of spiders that are adapted to live in water.

Final Thoughts

The question of whether spiders can swim is an interesting one that has led to some fascinating discoveries.

While some spider species have evolved remarkable adaptations for aquatic life, not all spiders possess the ability to swim. Each spider has its own unique set of adaptations and behaviors that enable it to survive and thrive in its particular environment.

Whether they are swimming or living on land, spiders are truly remarkable creatures that continue to surprise us with their adaptability and ingenuity.

FAQs

Can spiders swim?

Yes, certain spider species have adapted to swim and navigate through water. However, not all spiders possess this ability.

Can a spider survive in water?

Spiders have varying abilities to survive in water. Some species, like the Diving Bell Spider, have adaptations that enable them to thrive in aquatic environments. However, most spiders are better suited for land habitats and may struggle to survive in water for extended periods.

What does the diving bell spider do?

The Diving Bell Spider, also known as Argyroneta aquatica, constructs a silken web underwater, creating an air-filled diving bell. This bell serves as a refuge and a source of oxygen, allowing the spider to breathe while submerged.

Do brown recluse spiders like water?

Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are primarily land-dwelling spiders and do not have a strong affinity for water. While they may come into contact with water or get wet, they do not exhibit swimming behaviors or adaptations.

Do house spiders like water?

House spiders, like most spider species, are not particularly fond of water. While they may encounter water or get wet, they are not adapted for swimming and typically prefer land habitats.

Can spiders bite underwater?

Spiders are capable of biting underwater, as their mouthparts are designed for feeding and defense. However, it is unlikely for a spider to intentionally bite underwater, as they typically bite in response to threats or when capturing prey.

Can you drown a spider?

Spiders can drown if submerged in water for an extended period, as they rely on air to breathe. While some spider species can survive underwater for certain durations, prolonged submersion may lead to their demise.

Resources – (for further reading)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Water spider | arachnid

Pennsylvania State University – Fishing Spider

Wikipedia – Raft spider, Dolomedes briangreenei

I'm Ernest M Noah, the founder of BugsTips.com. I have years of experience as an exterminator in Texas and Idaho, and I'm passionate about educating people on how to deal with pest problems effectively and safely.