Tuesday, July 27, 2010
As I entered the swamp, looking closely on the bark of the cypress, I can spot the usual suspects; green anoles and five lined skinks. I even glimpse a rat snake reluctantly crossing over a narrow strip of water to get to the next tree.
But something else catches my attention. At first, I think I see the spent holdfast of a bromeliad but as I get closer I recognize the fishing spider, Dolomedes okefinokensis almost the size of my hand clasping what appears to be a shrimp. Although their main diet consists mostly of insects they have been spotted feeding on small fish and frogs. Their velvety hairs are hydrophobic which allows them to use surface tension to sit on the water with their forearms extended and with their vibration detecting organs, grab their meal. Because of their specialized covering they are also able to submerge themselves, a possible adaption to capture prey or evade predators. A thin film forms around them from the air that gets trapped between the hairs. This underwater air supply allows them to stay buoyant and even breathe under water. Once they have grasped their meal they move out of the wet onto dry land or in this case the trunk of a pond cypress, to eat.
I continued my walk and noticed another possible wonder. Nestled into the hollow of a branch was another invasive Cuban frog. Mm… if only he was in the water!