Bob Marley Reincarnated: New Water Spider Named For Reggae Star Builds Underwater Air Chambers To Breathe

12_28_Bob Marley spider (2)
Life image of a male individual of the new species Desis bobmarleyi. Credit: R. Raven

A newly discovered spider has received a memorable, scientific name: Desis bobmarleyi. Yes, after that Bob Marley—the international renowned musical icon.

In a published paper, Australian scientists explain that they gave the new intertidal species this name became of Marley’s song “High Tide or Low Tide,” which matches the high tide-low tide habitat in which the species thrives.  

“The known species hide away in barnacle shells, corals or the holdfasts of kelp during high tide where they build air chambers from silk, but are vagrant hunters of other invertebrates during low tide and typically collected from the surface of intertidal rocks, corals, debris or plants,” study author Barbara Baehr, an arachnologist affiliated with Queensland Museum, and her colleagues wrote in their paper published in the journal Evolutionary Systematics.

The water-adapted spider was discovered nearly nine years ago—in January 2009—on Australia’s coastline, but it didn’t officially receive its name until marine biologists published their research on December 22. In their literature, the authors describe a unique connection between the reggae song and the marine species.

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“The song ‘High Tide or Low Tide’ promotes love and friendship through all struggles of life,” the authors wrote. “It is his music that aided a field trip to Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia, to collect spiders with a highly unique biology.”

Scientists gathered brain coral—which lack a brain, but rather are named for their appearance—and upon examination found male and female specimens of the new spider. After examining the critters in the lab, they found that the female is bit larger—about 9 millimeters (mm)—and the male measures about 6 mm in length. Despite being different sizes, both sexes were the same colors—a mix of red, brown, and orange, with dark gray hair-like structures.

12_28_Bob Marley Coral Brain An individual of the newly discovered species Desis bobmarleyi on brain coral at low tide. Credit: Paul Hoye

All of the locations the spider calls homes are unknown. So far, it has only been spotted in the northeastern coast of Queensland, the authors note in their study.


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While you may be wondering how the scientists managed to get away with naming the spider after the Jamaican reggae superstar, it’s actually quite commonplace to name organisms after famous people. Meet, for example, the Beyonce fly, Lady Gaga ferns, and the John Lennon tarantula.