Come for the surf, stay for the spiders; Hawaii is home to a special breed of crawlers

Come for the surf, stay for the spiders; Hawaii is home to a special breed of crawlers

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA - Hawaii is known for many things; Its beautiful beaches, rich blend of cultures and now — mutant spiders?

A study done by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley highlights the remarkable transformation of the Hawaiian Ariamnes stick Spider, an arachnid that has evolved and developed into 14 different species since arriving in Hawaii.

Hawaii is a perfect area for biological diversity because of its climate and isolation from other forms of plant and animal life.

"This very predictable repeated evolution of the same forms is fascinating because it sheds light on how evolution actually happens," said Rosemary Gillespie, a lead author of the paper, and professor at UC Berkeley, in a news release. "Such outstanding predictability is rare and is only found in a few other organisms that similarly move around the vegetation."

The study found that the original species came to Hawaii about two to three million years ago. In their home habitat, the spiders would rely on other spiders' webs and caught prey to eat.

Since there wasn't a large spider population in Hawaii, the parasitic arachnids had two options: Find another way to survive, or die.

The spiders began by trapping and eating other spiders. Some evolved to be able to live under leaves, others evolved to live under rocks.

Of the 14 species across the islands, the study says that each type has distinct physical characteristics. The study found that spiders on the same islands, despite physical differences, were more closely related than spiders that looked similar on other islands.

For example, a white spider on Oahu is a closer relative to a brown spider on the same island than it is to a white spider on Maui.

"This study provides insights into a fundamental question about the origins of biodiversity but also presents a remarkable story that can call attention to the need for conserving nature in all of its forms," said the study's co-author George Roderick, professor at UC Berkeley in a statement.

Researchers say that the spiders' detailed and precise repetition in evolution patterns is very rare.

Across the board, the researchers found that the brown stick spiders lived on rocks, the gold ones lived on leaves and the white ones lived on lichen.

The averse affect of Hawaii's rich biological diversity and isolation is the fact that the islands are more susceptible to negative change and invasive species.

"We need to be able to figure out this diversity and document it and describe what's so special about it, so that people know about it," Gillespie said. "It's being lost and it's a desperate situation."

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