Giant bat-eating spiders found everywhere except Antarctica

© Martin Nyffeler and Mirjam Knörnschild

Even if you aren't the type to get creeped out by spiders, we're pretty sure these spiders will do the trick.

In the latest from the scientific journal PLoS ONE, researchers have found that bat-eating spiders are more widely distributed than previously thought. In fact, they can be found on every single continent except Antarctica. So odds are, you're a lot closer to one of these huge 8-legged critters than you ever expected.

By sorting through reports, talking with fellow scientists, with staff members from bat hospitals, and even looking through photos found on Flickr, the researchers discovered 52 reports of bat-eating spiders -- more than half of which were not previously published -- and created a lengthy report of their actual distribution.

© Martin Nyffeler and Mirjam Knörnschild

From the report:

The majority of identifiable captured bats were small aerial insectivorous bats, belonging to the families Vespertilionidae (64%) and Emballonuridae (22%) and usually being among the most common bat species in their respective geographic area. While in some instances bats entangled in spider webs may have died of exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, and/or hyperthermia (i.e., non-predation death), there were numerous other instances where spiders were seen actively attacking, killing, and eating the captured bats (i.e., predation). This evidence suggests that spider predation on flying vertebrates is more widespread than previously assumed.

The species of spiders that have caught bats include golden silk orb-weavers, orb-weavers, huntsman spiders, and tarantulas. There was even an attack by a fishing spider! But the vast majority of catches are done by orb-weaving species. It's not terribly surprising considering these spiders build such huge and strong webs, and they're big enough to eat whatever flies into those webs. Meanwhile, some tarantula species are known to even eat birds, so catching a bat here and there might just be part eating whatever one can sink their fangs into.

Here are various species of captive and captor:
© Martin Nyffeler and Mirjam Knörnschild

The entire report is actually quite interesting, especially if you have a fascination with spiders. You can read it in full here.

Tags: Animals | Biology | Ecology