On average, the world’s whales consume 280-500 million tons of seafood every year. There are more than seven billion humans on the planet. Their combined meat and fish intake is about 400 million tons a year. The world’s seabirds eat an estimated 70 million tons of seafood annually. And almost all of them lag behind the tiny spiders. According to a study published in The Science of Nature, spiders eat 400-800 million tons of insects every year.
About 25 million spiders exist on Earth
It was the first study of its kind. Inspired by a book called The World of Spiders, Dr. Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel spent thousands of hours studying the prey selection and capture rates of spiders. He studied the spider behavior in great detail. Dr. Martin Nyffeler spent decades gathering data on how much food the eight-legged critters requires every year to survive.
Dr. Martin Nyffeler and his colleague Klaus Birkhofer then compiled data from 65 previous studies to estimate that a total of 25 million spiders exist on the planet. Taking into account how much food each spider needs to survive, scientists estimated that the world’s spider community eats 400-800 million tons of insects annually. These mind-boggling numbers may scare an arachnophobe, but it’s actually good for the planet.
Spiders are good for the nature
Dr. Martin Nyffeler hopes that the study would raise awareness about the importance of these critters in our food web. The eight-legged creatures play an important role in keeping disease-carriers and pests at bay. Scientists said in a statement that spiders feed on a large number of herbivorous insects. It means they help protect a wide variety of plants from herbivore damage. They make an important contribution to maintaining the planet’s ecological balance.
There are an estimated 45,000 different spider species, all of them eat meat. About 90% of their prey consists of springtails, insects, and other arthropods. An estimated 95% of their annual prey kill takes place in forests and grasslands. Forests, savannahs, and grasslands are less frequently disturbed than urban or agricultural areas. As a result, they have a higher spider biomass.
The critters with their silken threads can travel long distances to find food. They can cover up to 30 kilometers in a single day. They are found in almost all parts of the world from the Arctic to sand dunes. They also serve as food for other animals. There are about 10,000 bird and insect species that feed on spiders.