Spiders Able to Catch, Devour Fish

Many species of spiders spanning 6 continents hunt, feast on fish
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2014 6:03 AM CDT
Spiders Able to Catch, Devour Fish
Dolomedes plantarius was spotted eating fish in the UK.   (Andreas Eichler via Wikimedia Commons)

If you aren't already arachnophobic, this might be enough to turn you: Spiders don't just hunt insects; they also like to fish, and are apparently rather good at it. So say scientists who have observed at least 18 species of spiders on every continent but Antarctica hunting and feasting on fish—and North America is home to the most documented incidents. The spiders tend to be semi-aquatic, meaning they can often walk on water or swim. While the fish they eat tend to be on the smaller end, from 0.8 to 2.4 inches long, that's still on average 2.2 times the length of the spiders themselves, and the arachnids are capable of hunting fish up to 4.5 times their weight, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

One small spider, the Argyroneta aquatica, actually lives underwater. Another, the Ancylometes rufus, can dive under water for a whopping 20 minutes. Others hunt from above water, using their hind legs to cling to nearby plants or rocks. But most drag their prey to land soon after capture, with mouths big and strong enough to bite into the fish and inject paralyzing venom and enzymes that dissolve the fish into a more edible state. Spiders, it turns out, "have evolved very potent neurotoxins [for] killing fish within seconds to minutes," one researcher tells USA Today. The Monitor points out spiders have also been observed dining on frogs, bats, mice, snakes, and even small birds. (Click to read about deadly spiders hatching out of grocery store bananas.)

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