25/06/2024

The Critters

For Nice Critters

Who’s Tough Enough to Eat a Sea Spider?

Who’s Tough Enough to Eat a Sea Spider?

Rather than “Who’s Tough Enough to Eat a Sea Spider?” you need to know what a sea spider is.

They have been around for millions of years, but live in an environment not often in contact with humans. Volcanic ash near Herefordshire, UK, reveals spider fossils from 425 million years ago. They’ve been here a long time. More recently, scientific expeditions to the Antarctic area have discovered some amazing current examples.

Just off the Ross Sea Shelf in Southern Antarctica live gigantic specimens of many forms of sea creatures. In addition to giant worms and crustaceans these expeditions brought back sea spiders larger than a dinner plate. Many had the normal eight legs, but some have more, even up to twelve legs. Very large size sea life is nothing unusual in the Antarctic area. Scientists speculate this is because of cold temperatures, high oxygen levels, adequate food, and a general lack of predators in the area.

Sea spiders exist in total darkness about four miles deep. They crawl around feeding on soft bodied creatures like sponges and sea slugs using their proboscis to suck the life out of their prey. In fact, they are VAMPIRES! So, such ogres exist now in the deepest Antarctic Ocean just as they did in Romania in the days of Count Dracula.

About the time the giant sea spiders appeared so did an ancient toad named Beelzebufo, the Devil Toad. BeBo surfaced among crocodile and dinosaur fossils dating to the late Cretaceous period, roughly 70 million years ago, on the island of Madagascar. He is a monstrous creature that weighed about ten pounds with an armored skin. He probably needed this to deal with dinosaurs and crocodiles every day. Scientists think BeBo may even have eaten a few baby dinosaurs; he had to be very tough customer.

BeBo is not related to any African frogs or toads. Rather, his closest relatives are in South America where they are kept as pets and known as “pacman” frogs because of their very large mouths. Now, why does this matter? Consider this: Madagascar is a very long way across the Atlantic Ocean from South America. How is BeBo in Madagascar and all his relatives are far away in South America? This leads to speculation among scientists that some kind of land link between Africa and South America may have remained after the continents separated eons ago. Perhaps it was through Antarctica, a place very much warmer in the past than it is now.

All these related discoveries have led to a speculative debate: What eats a sea spider? Could it be BeBo the armored Devil Toad? While the spider takes up about as much space as BeBo, there are overwhelming differences in favor of BeBo. He weighed about 10 pounds, had a very large mouth, his skin was armored, and he had millions of years experience fighting dinosaurs. This is no contest. The sea spider weighs almost nothing and his proboscis would immediately crumple upon encountering BeBo’s armor plate.

So, why do we even want to know about any of this?

First, the sea spider and all his giant friends may reveal important information about temperature changes and their effect on food supplies for all the Antarctic animals. Such information may also indicate what new predators will come on the scene. And the Devil Toad could be a link to what really happened when Africa and South America drifted apart. Who knows? Somebody may find the spider can really eat the Devil Toad!

For more about fossils, continental drift, toads, sea spiders, and the Antarctic see the resource block about me which appears at the end of this article.