FunNature & AnimalSpiders hunt and eat snakes on almost every continent

Spiders hunt and eat snakes on almost every continent

Little spiders hunting snakes? It’s not that weird. The researchers found 319 records of spiders hunting, killing and eating snakes, 297 representing events that occurred naturally in nature (the others in captivity). Considering the size of snakes and spiders, we would tend to think that the scale would tip over the former. However, the study has revealed that this is not the case. Using their venom and strong webs, spiders around the world can kill and eat snakes much larger than themselves, something that has surprised scientists.

These snake-hunting spiders exist on every continent except Antarctica, although most of the reports (constituting around 80%) come from the US and, perhaps unsurprisingly, from Australia. Europe represents only 1% of the total and they were limited to a group of non-venomous snakes of the Typhlopidae family.

More than 30 species of spiders turned out to have this unexpected snack, including hourglass-marked black widows ( Latrodectus mactans, L. Hesperus, L. variolus ), as well as other relatives such as the African button spider ( L. indistinctus ), whose venom is deadly enough to kill much larger animals.

Tarantulas were responsible for another 10% of snake deaths. Next were orb weaver spiders, which are known to catch and eat bats and birds as well.

What is surprising is that spiders were often 10 to 30 times smaller than snakes, and many of them weren’t exactly defenseless, having their own venom. And still, the data showed that American spiders routinely fed on coral snakes and rattlesnakes and, in Australia, brown snakes, one of the most poisonous species in the world.

That so many different groups of spiders sometimes eat snakes is a completely new finding , “Martin Nyffeler, an arachnologist at the University of Basel, said in a statement.” Much more research is therefore needed to find out which components of poisons that they specifically target the vertebrate nervous system and are responsible for allowing spiders to paralyze and kill much larger snakes with a venomous bite. “


Referencia: Spiders (Arachnida: Araneae) feeding on snakes (Reptilia: Squamata) Martin Nyffeler, J. Whitfield Gibbons Author Affiliations + The J. of Arachnology, 49(1):1-27 (2021).


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