UH Mānoa researchers study giant sea spiders


UH Mānoa researchers participated in a study showing giant sea spiders solve one of life’s biggest challenges—getting oxygen into the body and taking it where it needs to go—in a way that is new to science. 

A dinner-plate-sized Antarctic sea spider. Photo by C. Shishido

UH Mānoa’s Amy Moran and her colleagues found giant sea spiders get oxygen through the surface of their legs. The sea spiders move oxygen around their bodies while digesting their food with involuntary contractions of the gut, which extends to the ends of the animal’s legs!

UH Manoa PhD student Caitlin Shishido photographs sea spiders at McMurdo Station. Photo by B. Tobalske

Moran, UH Mānoa associate professor of biology, and Caitlin Shishido, UH Mānoa PhD student, are two of the six authors. The study was published in the July 10, 2017 issue of Current Biology. The research was performed at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

UH Manoa researcher Amy Moran dives with sea spiders in Antarctica. Photo by R. Robbins


What else they learned? Sea spiders are a bizarre and ancient group of marine arthropods. Sea spiders in Antarctica can reach the size of dinner plates, part of a phenomenon known as “polar gigantism.”

Most animals extract oxygen from the environment using specialized structures like gills and lungs, and distribute oxygen via their hearts and blood vessels. Sea spiders, distant marine relatives of land spiders, have no specialized structures to take up oxygen, and their hearts are weak.

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Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She freelance writes for NMG Network's magazines. In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She volunteers as a board member of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, a Shinto shrine maiden at Daijingyu Temple, a citizen-scientist studying shrimp, and a yoga teacher at a senior center.

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