Dr Claudia Arango, a research fellow at Queensland Museum, is one of the few world specialists on pycnogonids (or sea spiders). She has been working on Australian fauna since 1998.
Claudia studies these spiders to work out how they evolved; their ecology; relationships among the families and species; and to help understand their position in the arthropod Tree of Life.
Claudia is currently leading a three-year project with an international team of researchers studying the diversification and evolutionary history of sea spiders in Antarctica. She is interested in the connections Australasian species have to Antarctic and deep-sea species.
Antarctic sea spiders tend to be bigger, more abundant, and more diverse than their relatives from warmer locations, particularly the tropics.
The image below shows representative species from four different lineages of sea spiders (Pycnogonida). Nymphon unguiculatum (top left) and Decolopoda australis (top right), a spectacular ten-legged form, both from Antarctica. Endeis mollis is a common tropical species, here feeding on corals from the Great Barrier Reef (bottom left), and Eurycyde raphiaster mostly found in shallow tropical waters from the Caribbean to the Indo-Pacific (bottom right).
In her research, Claudia and her colleagues have found certain ‘hot spots’ of biodiversity in benthic organisms in the icy deep Antarctic waters. They are determining baseline measures so future studies can determine the effects of climate change on existing species abundance and distribution.
Sea spiders feed on a variety of sessile organisms, (or ones that are fixed in one place), particularly bryozoans, which are known to be very susceptible to climate change.
What will be the effect of ice melting and other climate changes on sea floor communities?
To learn more about Claudia’s research visit her Biography Page.