Spiders devour over 400 million metric tons of prey yearly - study

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By Euronews  with The Science of Nature, New Scientist, CNET
Spiders devour over 400 million metric tons of prey yearly - study

<p>Spiders are giving new meaning to the phrase all-you-can-eat, according to a new report published in the journal <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00114-017-1440-1">The Science of Nature</a>.</p> <p>A team of Swiss and Swedish scientists found that the predatory arachnids eat an estimated 400 to 800 million metric tons of prey each year. That’s at least equal to – or possibly double – what all the humans on earth consume in meat and fish annually!</p> <p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Spiders massacre 400 - 800 million tonnes of animal prey per year <a href="https://t.co/DUE7YZTtK9">https://t.co/DUE7YZTtK9</a> <a href="https://t.co/uOV6loCh0f">pic.twitter.com/uOV6loCh0f</a></p>— AFP news agency (@AFP) <a href="https://twitter.com/AFP/status/841905855817752577">March 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <p>The critters’ appetites are even larger than those of whales, the study finds. The sea mammals munch through approximately 280 million to 500 million tons of prey per year.</p> <p>Most of the more-than-45,000 species of spider eat insects or collembola, the small, insect-like creatures also known as springtails. </p> <p>“Our calculations let us quantify for the first time on a global scale that spiders are major natural enemies of insects,” said researcher Martin Nyffeler, from the University of Basel.</p> <p>“In concert with other insectivorous animals such as ants and birds, they help to reduce the population densities of insects significantly.”</p> <p>However, larger tropical species do occasionally devour vertebrates, such as frogs, lizards, fish and small mammals.</p> <p>“Spiders thus make an essential contribution to maintaining the ecological balance of nature,” Nyffeler added.</p> <p>“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.”</p>