Research shows that snakes sometimes have to face a formidable enemy: the spider.
Snakes are on the list of primates, big cats, and livestock. But not only mammals like porridge. A new study shows that an unexpected animal also loves a bite of snake meat: the spider.
Spiders that eat snakes
Spiders are mainly insect eaters. But sometimes they expand their list by catching and devouring small snakes. The researchers decided to get to the bottom of this strange phenomenon in a meta-analysis. And their results are impressive, to say the least.
The results show that spiders on nearly every continent – with the exception of Antarctica – occasionally feed on snakes. At least eighty percent of the accidents investigated occurred in the United States and Australia. In contrast, in Europe, this spider-eating behavior is extremely rare (less than 1 percent of all reported incidents). Moreover, in those few cases, European spiders prey on small, non-venomous snakes belonging to the group teflubidi (worm hoses) are available. By the way, no cases of a spider eating a snake have been reported in Switzerland. One possible explanation for this is that the original snakes and vipers of Swiss spiders are very large and heavy, even when they have just hatched.
By the way, it turns out that many spider species sometimes eat a snake as a delicious snack. Spiders belonging to at least eleven different families are to blame for this. “That different groups of spiders sometimes eat snakes is an entirely new discovery,” said researcher Martin Neville.
The most successful snake hunter is the black widow. This spider belongs to the globular arachnids and can reach a length of 3.8 cm (including legs). In about half of the observed incidents, it was this spider that managed to subdue an unsuspecting snake. The powerful black widow’s venom specifically targets the nervous system of vertebrates, quickly killing them. In addition, they build impressive webs that consist of very hard silk, which allows them to capture larger prey such as lizards, frogs, mice and, accordingly, snakes.
An interesting new discovery: spiders can eat snakes belonging to seven different families. And not just the little ones. It turns out that spiders can defeat snakes no less than 10-30 times (!) in size. The largest snakes caught by spiders are at least 1 meter long. Smaller only about six centimeters. The average length of a captured snake is 26 cm. Most of them are also very small specimens, only hatched. The ability of spiders to pass on to larger victims sometimes is due to extremely powerful neurotoxins and strong and rigid webs.
Rattlesnakes and coral snakes
Trapped snakes themselves are not powerless: about 30 percent of them are venomous. However, spiders in the United States and South America occasionally kill venomous rattlesnakes and coral snakes. For example, the Australian brown snake – which belongs to the same family as the cobra – often falls prey to the middle-back red spider. Nefeller asserts that “brown snakes are among the most venomous snakes in the world.” “It’s really cool to see them lose battles with spiders.”
When a spider hunts a snake, it can often feed on such large prey for hours or even days. Spiders have a very irregular diet. If there is a lot of food available, they eat a lot and then sometimes go hungry again for a long time. By the way, spiders rarely eat their entire dish. For example, they often eat a small portion of a dead snake. Then scavengers such as ants, wasps, flies and fungi pounce on what remains of the stricken victim.