Spiders eat twice as much as humans annually

If the title didn't give it away, this piece is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. Sure, we won't be talking gory details, but spiders have the unfortunate reputation of being one of the most feared or hated critters on the planet. And now scientists have just given haters even more ammo. According to research, which admittedly involves a lot of estimating, spiders eat somewhere between 400 to 800 million tons of prey a year. Which is pretty big considering there are believed to be only 25 million tons' worth of spiders on the planet.

Putting it into even better perspective, humans, who probably outnumber and outweigh these arachnids eat only a combined total of 400 million tons of meat and fish annually. Whales, the largest mammals, eat 280 to 500 million tons of seafood. Seabirds, in comparison, have a measly performance number of 70 million tons of fish and other seafood each year.

The findings were presented by Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel in Switzerland. Klaus Birkhofer of Lund University in Sweden, and the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg in Germany in the latest The Science of Nature journal. They arrived at that estimate by basically extrapolating the number and rate of prey captures observed in the field with the estimated number of spiders per square meter in that area.

This definitely paints spiders in a negative light, being the gluttonous predators that they are. But they actually have an important role to play in the ecosystem. Think of them as natural insecticides, as they help keep the voluminous number of other insects in check. The scientists hope that the findings will actually increase appreciation for spiders rather than apprehension.

Don't worry, in the Circle of Life, spiders themselves eventually end up as food for other creatures, which makes them even more important. There are 8,000 to 10,000 other creatures, be they predator or parasite, that feed only on spiders to survive. And 3,000 to 5,000 species of birds have spiders occasionally in their menus.

SOURCE: Eurekalert

Image courtesy of Pixabay