New scientific research shows that spiders not only enjoy bugs, but there are at least two dozen spider species that eat freshwater fish.
Remarkably, the fish they catch may be even bigger than the spiders themselves, especially in the case of spiders that can swim, say researchers documenting the spiders.
Typically, the fish spiders catch are between two to six centimeters in length, more than double the length of the spiders themselves.
Arachnologist Martin Nyffeler, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, and fish ecologist Brad Pusey, of the University of Western Australia, studied scientific papers, citizen reports and photos from around the world and collected 89 such instances of spiders eating fish.
“Our evidence suggests that fish might be an occasional prey item of substantial nutritional importance,” said zoologist Martin Nyffeler, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, who led the study.
“Fish meat is high-quality prey regarding protein content and caloric value. Feeding on fish may be particularly advantageous during the mating period when the elevated energy and protein requirements of gravid (pregnant) female spiders require increased food intake, or at times of limited availability of invertebrate prey,” he adds.
The researchers found that spiders prey for fish at the edges of shallow freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and fens, mainly in the warmer areas of the world.
The Florida wetlands and neighboring regions are a particular hot spot for spiders to prey on fish. Although, these fish eating spiders are on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.
The spiders that prey on fish don’t use webs, they’re all in the category of hunters, which employ potent neurotoxins and enzymes to kill and then to digest fish.
“It takes a spider usually many hours to devour a fish until nothing is left but bones and scales,” Nyffeler said.
Their review was published June 18, 2014 in the journal PLOS ONE.
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