Spiders! Those eight legged, multi-eyed buggers have been everywhere, even in movies too! From horror to fantasy adventure to even super hero movies! Now these Hollywood rockstars pulls out another surprising fact about them from their many sleeves, they are eating non-insects, with a preference for fish.
Bizarre? It kind of is surprising. After all, who would’ve thought that those patient hunters, who would spin elaborate traps of webbings at the corner of your house and wait patiently till a hapless fly flies in, would go after things like bats, earthworms, snails, and fish? According to a paper published by zoologist Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel in Switzerland, spiders on almost all continents engage in this predatorial behavior, except for on Antarctica. The paper was just published in PLoS ONE. His academic career has been on studying spider behavior and recently he even decided to view the entire spider ecology literature. Maybe he had had one too many Spider-man comic to read.
So, to that end, he went about compiling every single publication he could find on spiders, from well-known international publications to obscure and ancient and foreign publications, he went through it all. He even included pictures! Who doesn’t like pictures, right? He also made a point to contact each and every author of the pictures to ensure the pictures were not staged and discard them if they were, unless they were researchers staging it to test spider behaviors, in which case he made it a point to properly annotate it. He even roped in fish expert Bradley Pusey from Australia’s Centre for Excellence in Natural Resource Management as his co-author.
According to his findings, this behavior of spiders are found 40 degrees north and south of the equator, which basically covers a large portion of the world except for Antarctica, sadly. The reason, he says, is that in this band, the water bodies have low oxygen content and as such the fish has to come up to the water surface to feed on insects. As the fish comes up however, the spiders, who lies in wait dangling by their hind legs, pounces on the fish and injecting neurotoxins into it. After the fish dies, it then proceeds to drag the fish away and pump it full of digestive enzymes. You get your cup noodles and spideys like their fish soup! Nyffeler adds that he confirmed 89 incidences spread across 8 spider families.
Although, this doesn’t mean you can run out and start clicking your own collection of spider hunting fish. Some of the pictures were taken only after trying for more than 300 tries. But then again, spiders are really patient creatures.