A new study discovers that venomous spiders prey upon snakes many times their size, and frequently come out victorious against snakes as venomous as they are.
(Photo : Pixabay)
Records of Spiders Killing Snakes
The study researchers discovered 319 records of spiders taking the lives of snakes and also feasting upon them, 297 of which were naturally occurring incidents in the wild. (The other 22 were staged in captivity.)
Around a third of those instances came from scientific observations released in journals, while the rest were seen on news or social media sites. Study co-author Martin Nyffeller, a conservation biologist at the University of Base who has formerly given a report on spiders feeding on bats and other vertebrates said: “The longer I tackle this problem, the more I come to realize that certain spiders accomplish such incredible feats.”
Snacking on snakes was remarkably general, with over 30 spider species carrying out the practice in natural conditions, and another 11 taking the chance in captivity, Nyffeler and herpetologist J. Whitfield Gibbons from the University of Georgia reported this month in the Journal of Arachnology.
Widow spiders were the spiders frequently involved in this act, accountable for about half of the snake deaths; this group includes the notorious hourglass-marked black widows (Latrodectus Hesperus, L. mactans, L. variolus) and also relatives like the African button spider (L. indistinctus).
These spiders are tiny, at most 1.1 centimeters (0.4 inches) in size, and they generally target small, juvenile snakes, but their venom is lethal enough to kill much larger animals.
Members of the tarantula family were accountable for another 10 percent of snake kills. These larger spiders do not make webs, but actively hunt prey in trees or on the ground.
Another 8.5 percent of predation events were executed by large orb-weaver spiders, which are also known to capture and consume birds and bats. These spiders weave large and very powerful circular webs. Immediately the spiders kill the snakes, they suck out their internal organs just as they would an insect.
(Photo : Mark Broadhurst)
Rat Snakes Vs. Garter snakes
Reports of spiders feeding on snakes came from every continent excluding Antarctica, though half of the events reported took place in the United States and nearly a third happened in Australia. The researchers discovered proof of spiders preying on 86 distinct species of snake, with the most common victims being snakes of the colubrid family.
This family includes common species like rat snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) and garter snakes (Thamnophis cyrtopsis), and their commonness among spider victims possibly reflects the fact that they are the most profuse snake family on all continents excluding Australia, Nyffeler and Gibbons wrote.
Most of the snakes mauled by spiders were juveniles or babies weighing less than a gram. But spiders at times took large serpents down, too: The largest sufferers were up to 100 centimeters (3.25 feet) long and weighed several ounces.
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