A study published in the journal The Science of Nature measured the weight of all the food eaten by spiders per year. The results might raise a few chills up your spine, as the number is higher than you could have imagined. Spiders might consume more meat than humans can eat.
Martin Nyffeler, professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland, was the one who decided to start the study. He estimated the total weight of all the food consumed by spiders around the globe over a one year period. The results might be a little scary.
The study has frightening results
He and his team of researchers found that 25 million metric tons of spiders consume between 300 and 800 million metric tons of food per year. The numbers have been published today in the journal, so you can consult the study and see for yourself.
How can spiders consume so much? Their food consists mainly of insects, springtails, which are small non-insect animals, and, from time to time, even small vertebrates. The researchers also assessed how much food an individual spider needed, how many insects are caught in their webs, and how many insects they kill.
The study states how the quantity of food consumed by spiders is pretty close to the quantity of meat that humans and fish eat per year. The spider figure lies somewhere between 300 and 800 million metric tons, while humans consume around 400 million metric tons. This mass also equals the mass of all humans on Earth.
How did the researchers come up with the idea of the study?
Forty years ago, Nyffeler read a book called The World of Spiders. It was written by arachnologist William Bristowe in 1958. This book made the speculation that the mass of insects killed annually by spiders in Great Britain would exceed the mass of people living in the country. Nyffeler declared that this theory intrigued him and he wanted to test it.
Although it seems scary, spiders and their diets are very useful. They play a vital ecological role, as they are the main predators of insects from forests and other wild environments. On the other hand, spiders do not consume so many damaging insects from agricultural areas, as they do not have so many prey options in a human-controlled environment.
Thus, spiders might eat a huge amount of prey, but this is part of their role in the environment and it should not make us tremble.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons