Hungry spiders saving us from an invasion of insects
Hungry spiders saving us from an invasion of insects
Spiders outdo humans as they chomp though 800 million tonnes of prey a year
16 March, 2017, 00:19
The researchers then used two simple models to calculate how much prey all the world's spiders as a whole kill per year.
Among the astronomical amount of prey, insects and springtails remain the top snack for the spiders, accounting for over 90 percent of their annual prey consumption, Other spiders, especially large tropical spiders, sometimes feast on small vertebrates, such as snakes, frogs, lizards, bats and fishes. Their combined meat and fish intake is about 400 million tons a year.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, worldwide human population consumes around 400 million tonnes of meat and fish every year.
"In concert with other insectivorous animals such as ants and birds, they help to reduce the population densities of insects significantly", said lead study author and University of Basel professor Martin Nyffeler in a statement.
The researchers estimated, based on 65 existing studies, that the spider population would weigh the equivalent of 25 million tons.
"Spiders thus make an essential contribution to maintaining the ecological balance of nature".
Researchers have revealed that spiders wipe out an estimated 400-800 million tonnes of prey every year, compared to an estimated 280-500 million tonnes of prey that the world's whales eat.
I can't even conceive of what a single pound of spiders would look like, let alone 25 million metric tons of them.
The figure reflects the fact that forests, grasslands and savannas are less frequently disturbed than for instance agricultural or urban areas, and therefore allow for greater spider biomass.
In some parts of the world, spiders have a population density of 1,000 individuals per square meter.
"These estimates emphasise 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", says Nyffeler.
"We hope that these estimates and their significant magnitude raise public awareness and increase the level of appreciation for the important global role of spiders in terrestrial food webs", adds Nyffeler.
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