We’re calling it now: this is going to be the best, and probably most disturbing, fact you’ll read today.
A new study has revealed that all the spiders in the world eat between 440 and 880 million tons of insects and other pests each year. That’s the same weight as 85 million elephants. That’s even more elephants than you can see here:
By comparison, all of the humans on earth consume around 440 million tons of meat and fish in a year.
Other animals that spiders outperform in the eating stakes are whales (300 to 550 million tons of seafood) and all of the world’s seabirds (77 million tons of fish and other seafood).
There are around 45,000 species of spiders, which live in all kinds of environments and together combine to keep insects and pest in check, otherwise they’d probably all take over, destroying plants and trees, which would, in turn, rather bugger up the rest of the food chain.
Lead author of the study Martin Nyffeler, from the University of Basel in Switzerland, said: “Our calculations let us quantify for the first time on a global scale that spiders are major natural enemies of insects. In concert with other insectivorous animals such as ants and birds, they help to reduce the population densities of insects significantly. Spiders thus make an essential contribution to maintaining the ecological balance of nature."
There are so many spiders that quantifying them is incredibly difficult – a study in 2009 estimated that there were 750 million spiders in the UK alone. They feed predominantly on insects and sometimes other spiders, while some species can even eat frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, bats and birds.
Nyffeler has been studying spiders for 40 years, and arrived at his figures using data from 65 previous studies.
"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," stated the study, which can be found in the European journal The Science of Nature.
To show our appreciation for these fellas’ work, here’s a gif of one in action.
Erm, thanks, we guess?