Bat-Eating Spiders Live Almost Everywhere, New Study Finds

Bat-Eating Spiders

Bat-eating spiders live almost everywhere, according to a new (and rather disturbing) study. The new study shows that the only place to escape the massive arachnids is Antarctica.

Bats are one of the most successful groups of mammals on the planet. They have more than 1,200 species, and their numbers comprise about one-fifth of all mammal species.

They also have few natural enemies — save for bat-eating spiders. Spiders are already known to dine on fish, frogs, and even lizards that get trapped in their webs. Some tarantulas and comb-footed spiders have even been known to feed on snakes and mice.

But recent studies of one web building spider species and a tarantula species have yielded interesting results. Both species were found to kill and eat bats. The revelation prompted researchers to analyze 100 years’ worth of scientific reports, interviews of bat and spider researchers, and the staff of bat hospitals.

They also looked through several images and video sites on the subject. As a result, the researchers discovered 52 cases of bat-catching spiders around the globe. It was already known that accidental deaths of bats in spiderwebs was possible (and documented). However, the researchers were surprised to also find spiders who spun webs up to five feet wide capable of catching flying mammals.

About 90 percent of the known bat-eating spiders live in the tropics. Also, 88 percent of the documented cases were because of web-building spiders that had a leg span of four to six inches. Some spiders even built their webs close to buildings inhabited by bat colonies.

The most common prey for these mammal-eating spiders is either small or juvenile insect-eating bats. Most of the bats seen caught in the webs had wingspans of between four and 9.5 inches. While many of them died of exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, or overheating, several cases saw spiders actively attacking, killing, and eating the captured bats.

While the cases of bat-eating spiders appear to be few (at least the documented ones), the idea that they are found almost everywhere is at least slightly unnerving.

[Image via ShutterStock]