Meet the reggae spider

One might reasonably wonder why a newly described species of marine spider that lives in inter-tidal zones on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been named after deceased reggae legend Bob Marley.

Desis bobmarleyi, formally described in the journal Evolutionary Systematics, has never been observed singing great songs, living in Jamaica, nor (heaven forfend) smoking marijuana. 

At six millimetres, long it’s also substantially smaller than the musician. It does, admittedly, have quite a lot of hair-like structures across its abdomen and legs, but they are not noticeably dreadlocked.

The spider represents a remarkable discovery, and was found by Queensland Museum researchers Barbara Baehr and Robert Raven.

Extremely rare, the tiny arachnid uses the hair on its body to trap a bubble of air, which sustains it underwater during high tide.

“During low tide they are vagrant hunters found on corals, barnacles or debris,” explains Baehr.

But the reason for naming it after Bob Marley? It turns out that the singer’s hit song High Tide or Low Tide was a firm favourite on high rotation on the researchers’ sound system while they combed the reef in search of spiders.

Desis bobmarleyi is a close relative another marine spider, Desis vorax, native to Samoa. It was originally discovered and catalogued by German arachnologist Ludwig Koch 150 years ago. History does not record what music was playing at the time.

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