Ms. Shoshido and her colleagues thought giant sea spiders wouldn’t be able to handle really warm waters as well as smaller ones, because their oxygen demands would use up all their supply. But in tests, bigger sea spiders performed just as well as smaller ones of the same species. Used to living at temperatures below the freezing point of fresh water, surprisingly, some giant sea spiders were still flipping at almost 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their cuticles made it possible: “These guys have found a way around this oxygen limitation by basically making themselves more holey or more Swiss cheesy,” Ms. Shoshido said.
In the future, she hopes to find out just how holey the skin can get before it becomes structurally unsound — and if the holes are present, or even more abundant, in more active species that need more oxygen. She also wants to know if they can acclimate to gradual temperature increases or react to extended periods of warming in a longer term experiment.
“Nobody really works on them, and they’re just really weird creatures,” she said. “You don’t want them to disappear yet because we just don’t know much about them, and they could be really important.”