When It Comes to Animal Prey, Spiders Out-Eat Humans

When It Comes to Animal Prey, Spiders Out-Eat Humans”

Together they kill between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey annually, a team of Swiss and Swedish scientists has calculated.

In the first analysis of its kind, researchers used data from 65 previous studies to estimate that a total of 25m metric tonnes of spiders exist on Earth.

The study suggests spiders dwelling in forests and grasslands "account for more than 95 percent of the annual prey kill of the global spider community".

The researchers then used two simple models to calculate how much prey all the world's spiders as a whole kill per year.

While the 25 million tonne global spider population feasts mostly on insects and springtails, larger arachnids also eat frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, birds and bats. They make an important contribution to maintaining the planet's ecological balance.

Spiders are found everywhere from the Arctic to the most arid of deserts, in caves, on ocean shores, sand dunes and flood plains, the study authors said.

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The world's spiders eat 400-800m tonnes of insects every year - as much meat and fish as humans consume over the same period, a study said Tuesday.

"There is hardly any terrestrial area on this globe where spiders would be missing", wrote the researchers, Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel and Klaus Birkhofer of Lund University in Sweden and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg in Germany.

There are more than 45,000 species of spider living in all parts of the world with a collective weight of about 25 million tons. The second approach was based on prey capture observations in the field, combined with estimates of spider numbers per square meter.

"These estimates emphasize the important role that spider predation plays in semi-natural and natural habitats, as many economically important pests and disease vectors breed in those forest and grassland biomes", Dr. Nyffeler said. Seabirds, meanwhile, eat approximately 70 million tons of fish as well as other seafood. Between 8,000 to 10,000 predators eat only spiders, and another 3,000 to 5,000 bird species eat them frequently, USA Today reported.


"We hope that these estimates and their magnitude will help alert public opinion and improve the overall appreciation of the role of spiders."

The findings were discussed in The Science of Nature journal.

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