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Fishing spiders: Small but deadly predators

Spider walking across lily pads

© Andrea Benaglia

Written, and photographs, by Andrea Benaglia

A trip to Africa can sometimes provide unique sightings other than elephants, lions and antelopes.

And extraordinary sightings such as a fishing spider (Dolomedes) feeding on a freshly captured Argus reed frog is one such example. Spotted on a private property on Diani Beach in Kwale County, Kenya, this spider had my attention for a full two-and-a-half hours as it slowly digested the frog – it was a certainly a rewarding sight that any photographer and wildlife enthusiast would appreciate.

Spider eating frog

© Andrea Benaglia

It was clearly not an easy meal to capture and eat, considering that the poor frog was far larger than the spider. While they mainly feed on insects, they do hunt for much larger prey such as small fish, dragonflies and, in this case, frogs.

spider eating frog

© Andrea Benaglia

Fishing spiders hunt by patiently waiting at the edge of a pool or stream. On detecting ripples and vibrations they use their vibration-detecting organs and sensitive hairs (trichobothria) located on their legs to determine the source, be it falling leaves, wind on the water or potential prey. They kill their prey by injecting venom, which not only kills it, but also aids in the digestion.

Spider eating frog on lily pad

© Andrea Benaglia

Dolomedes is a genus of large spiders of the Pisauridae family with over a hundred species distributed all over the world. Fishing spiders are also known as fish-eating spiders or raft spiders, and being semi-aquatic and nocturnal, they are generally hard to spot – which is why this particular sighting was quite unique to witness in my eyes!

Fishing spider on the water

© Andrea Benaglia

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