Readers’ wildlife photos

February 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Keep sending in your photos, folks! I am getting some, but the pace is slower than usual.

Today’s contribution is from regular Mark Sturtevant, who has a single series of a fishing spider. Mark’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures, which mark the beginning of a rather dramatic series.

The six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) is a large semi-aquatic spider that sits out on floating vegetation on lakes, ponds, and rivers, often far from shore according to reports. From these vegetation rafts they hunt insects and small fish. I am fortunate that they live in my area. The first picture was posted earlier in WEIT a few years ago, and it records one of my first encounters with these spiders. This big female has captured a blue dasher dragonfly (!) You can see how this sort of thing might leave a lasting impression on Arachnophiles like me!

Ever since then, I had it in the back of my mind to one day catch a fishing spider, bring it home, and document some of their special behaviors in staged settings. And so begins a series of posts about the results of those plans. Catching one proved to be a very enjoyable day, as it involved going down a wide and lazy river in a kayak and visiting the many patches of lily pads that grew around bends and obstructions. Fishing spiders were here and there on them, and a dip net and a bug cage was used to take one home.

You can see the spider I brought home in the next pictures. While she was with me, she was kept in an aquarium with a few inches of water and lily pads.

She seemed pretty content, although never far from doing a full set of  ‘feet cleaning’. All …. 8 …. of …. them.

The aquarium had a glass bottom and so I could lie underneath it and photograph from below to see the spider in silhouette. This was quite an exciting moment! For a couple years I had this specific picture in mind, and here it is!

When these spiders are alarmed, they quickly duck under the water to hide. Since they are covered in a dense pile of fine hairs, it seemed likely they would become enclosed in an air bubble while under water. This turns out to be the case, as shown in the next two pictures. For the second of these, it should be explained that you are looking up at an alarmed spider through the bottom of the aquarium, while the spider is meanwhile under water. Air is around her body, and this makes her buoyant so she can sit upside down under the lily pad.

After a few minutes she will pop back to the surface; barely wetted by her plunge.

And then there is the fish in the picture. Remember that fishing spiders aren’t given that name for nothing, since they really do catch fish! That will be in the next installment.

Stay tuned!

20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I only saw fishing spiders for the first time this past summer. I’m amazed that I never noticed them before, and they were right along the edges of a pond with various water striders and the like. They are strikingly attractive spiders, I think, and amazingly fast.

    1. They do run very fast in short bursts. That they stop after only a short distance is reassuring when one is trying to wrangle them. (Yes, she just ran up my arm. But I’ve reason to hope she won’t go all the way up…)

  2. Dolomedes are very intimidating spiders. Here there are some called “Dock Spiders” in the vernacular because when you go to northern Ontario to cottages, they are around the docks which scare the crap out of everyone.

    Really great pictures you got though!

      1. That may be them. They are Canada’s largest spider. The do also go in the water and can stay under for about an hour or so I’ve read. I’ve heard of people telling about jumping off the dock to be horrified in an encounter with them.

    1. Aren’t they about the size of a hand and they crawl up from under the dock when you’re lying on it? I thankfully never came face-to-face with one when we used to go to Lake Joe.

  3. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

    Good pics. REALLY wouldn’t want to be a tiny fish.

    1. But it would be great for a human to have. “After a few minutes she will pop back to the surface; barely wetted by her plunge.”

  4. Looks like your plans and imaginings were a complete success. That silhouette is fantastic. Looking forward to seeing the fate of the fish. I wonder if these spiders eat tadpoles or small frogs. I couldn’t really tell how big it is.

  5. Very interesting indeed. Be sure not to put your $8K bladefin basslet in the same tank.

    Am I the only one who thinks the front of the spider looks like the face of a gorilla?

  6. Sorry I didn’t see this for a couple of days. These are great shots of one of my favourite spider families. Wonderful series. Thank you

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