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Who’s Tough Enough to Eat a Sea Spider?
Rather than “Who’s tough enough to eat a spider crab?” you need to know what a spider crab is.
They have been around for millions of years, but live in an environment with little contact with humans. Volcanic ash near Herefordshire, UK, reveals spider fossils dating back 425 million years. They have been here a long time. More recently, scientific expeditions to the Antarctic zone have discovered 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 spider crabs larger than a dinner plate. Many had the normal eight legs, but some have more, even up to twelve legs. Very large marine life is not unusual in the Antarctic zone. Scientists speculate this is due to cold temperatures, high oxygen levels, adequate food, and a general lack of predators in the area.
Spider crabs 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! Thus, such ogres now exist in the deepest Antarctic Ocean, just as they existed in Romania during the time of Count Dracula.
Around the time the giant spider crabs appeared, an ancient toad named Beelzebufo, the devil’s toad, appeared. BeBo surfaced among crocodile and dinosaur fossils dating back to the late Cretaceous, about 70 million years ago, on the island of Madagascar. It is a monstrous creature that weighed around ten pounds with armored skin. He probably needed it to take care of dinosaurs and crocodiles every day. Scientists think BeBo may have even eaten some baby dinosaurs; he must have been a very tough client.
BeBo is not related to any African frog or toad. Rather, its closest relatives are found in South America where they are kept as pets and known as “pacman” frogs due to their very large mouths. Now why is this important? Consider this: Madagascar is a very long way across the Atlantic Ocean from South America. How is BeBo in Madagascar and all his relatives far away in South America? This leads to speculation among scientists that some sort of earthly connection between Africa and South America may have remained after the continents separated eons ago. It may have been across Antarctica, a much warmer place in the past than it is now.
All of these related findings have led to a speculative debate: what does a spider crab eat? Could this 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 of experience fighting dinosaurs. It’s not a contest. The spider crab weighs next to nothing and its trunk would immediately crumple upon encountering BeBo’s armor plate.
So why do we even want to know all this?
First, the spider crab and all its giant friends can reveal important information about temperature changes and their effects on the food supply of all Antarctic animals. This information can also indicate which new predators will appear. And the Devil Toad could be a connection to what really happened when Africa and South America broke up. Who knows? Someone can find out that the spider can really eat the devil’s toad!
For more on fossils, continental drift, toads, spider crabs, and Antarctica, check out the About Me resource block that appears at the end of this article.
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