If you’re an arachnophobe you might want to stop reading now.
Because two biologists have published a paper on the dining habits of arachnids, which although fascinating, probably has the potential to give you nightmares.
Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer decided to tally up the amount of prey annually killed by the global spider community – arriving at a hefty estimate of between 400-800 million tons. In comparison, the population of the human world chomps its way through an estimated 400 million tons of meat and fish annually.
This means spiders eat at least the same amount of meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, according to the study published in The Science of Nature journal.
So far so creepy.
But the Washington Post takes it up a notch by pointing out that the total mass of all adult human beings on the planet is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even adding another 70 million tons to account for the weight of our offspring, it’s still not comparable to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a year.
“In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.”
Author Christopher Ingraham also kindly calculates that it would take 2,000lbs of spiders to consume a 200lb man in one day.
Using Nyffler and Birkhofer’s maths that all spiders in the world together would weigh around 25 million tons, Ingraham adds: “For comparison, the Titanic weighed around 52,000 tons. The mass of every spider on Earth today, in other words, is equivalent to 478 Titanics.”
In some parts of the world, spiders have a population density of 1,000 individuals per square meter. They thrive in forests and grasslands, killing much more prey than in deserts and agricultural areas, the study found.
The purpose of the paper however, is not to keep you from sleeping at night.
On the contrary, in their concluding remarks, the authors note the economic benefits of the arachnids’ voracious appetites and predilection for what are significant pests and disease hosts, stating: “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.”
Sleep tight and don’t let the…