BUM DEAL: Amputated Sea Spiders Can Regrow Their Rear Ends, Says Study

Amputated sea spiders can regrow large parts of their bodies including their rear ends and reproductive organs, a new study has shown.

Image shows two sea spider (Pycnogonum litorale) individuals next to their prey – a sea anemone, undated photo. When researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, illuminated them with a UV light source, the spiders fluoresce bright blue. (Georg Brenneis/Newsflash)

Biologists discovered that the species of sea spiders identified as Pycnogonum litorale can even recreate their entire backsides including muscles and the hindgut.

The marine arthropod is reportedly native to the northern Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the western Mediterranean Sea.

Led by experts from Austria’s University of Vienna and the Universities of Greifswald and Berlin, in Germany, the research was inspired by a lab accident.

One of the team observed a young sea spider regrow a leg after it was accidentally cut off in a procedure.

So for the study, the scientists set out to discover how much or its body the marine creature could grow back.

The team – led by evolutionary biologist Georg Brenneis – spent months analysing the spider’s regenerative abilities.

Image shows an adult sea spider individual after a complete regeneration of its third right leg and the entire last trunk segment with the fourth pair of legs and end of the body, undated photo. Researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, discovered that sea spiders can regrow their abdomen and internal organs aside from their limbs. (Georg Brenneis/Newsflash)

They documented the different developmental stages of 23 sea spiders which had their legs and rear body parts removed.

Using fluorescence microscopy and X-ray micro-computed tomography, the experts mapped the creatures’ external and internal development and reconstructed them in 3D.

But when the results came, the biologists were astonished by the sea spider’s high survival rate.

Almost all non-mature individuals – says the study – managed to regenerate the missing body parts at the rear end of their body.

Brenneis said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “This not only affected the new formation of limbs.

“In addition, almost complete rear trunk segments with muscles and midgut tubes, the rearmost appendage with rectum and anus, as well as missing elements of the sex organs were formed again.”

Sea spiders’ ability to regrow could come from a very old evolutionary lineage of arthropods, the authors explained.

The University of Vienna said: “This regenerative capacity may have also contributed to the success of their impressive evolutionary diversification.

“Further investigations of the regenerative abilities of other arthropods and their more closely related molting animals using modern methods could support this hypothesis.”

Image shows a 3D reconstruction of the intestine (magenta) and the central elements of the nervous system (green) from an X-ray micro-computed tomographic data set of a sea spider (Pycnogonum litorale), undated photo. Researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, discovered that sea spiders can regrow their abdomen and internal organs aside from their limbs. (Georg Brenneis/Newsflash)

The study was published in the peer reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Monday, 23rd January 2023.

Leave a Reply