Study Finds Spiders Prey on Bats in almost every Continent

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Bat-eating spiders are reportedly on every continent, but one, Antarctica. According to scientists, there are some types of spiders catching bats everywhere else in the world.

According to NBC News, there are over 1,200 species of bats which make up approximately one-fifth of all mammal species. With few natural enemies, it was a little surprising for experts when they found spiders actually seek to trap and feed off bats.

Previously, it was believed that spiders would eat bats that fell to cave floors or that accidentally got caught up in webs. However, recent studies are showing otherwise. The current study used several methods to gather information, such as the analysis of 100 years of scientific reports and interviews with bat and spider experts.

In true modern form, the researchers also "dug through the blogosphere" as Wired noted, which included image-sharing websites, such as Flickr.  The researchers scanned for images and videos of bat-eating spiders across the Web and after an exhaustive search, evidence is surfacing that leans towards spiders actually snagging bats as prey intentionally.

After the search was finished, the researchers found 52 cases of bat-catching spiders in all corners of the world, except, of course, Antarctica. Most of these instances had not been previously noted. Most of the bat-eating spiders live in the warmer regions. Forty percent live in the neotropics (North and South America regions) and about a third live in Asia. The rest are spread out in areas such as Australia and Papua New Guinea.

"Bats have few natural enemies. The most prominent bat enemies mentioned in the scientific literature are owls, hawks, and snakes," the authors said in the study.

"Eighty-eight percent of the reported incidences of bat catches were attributable to web-building spiders and 12 percent to hunting spiders. Large tropical orb-weavers of the genera Nephila and Eriophora in particular have been observed catching bats in their huge, strong orb-webs (of up to 1.5 m diameter)," the authors of the study wrote. The webs were noted to be about 5 feet wide in diameter (1.5 meters)," wrote the authors.

The full results of the study, entitled "Bat Predation by Spiders", were published in the March 13 issue of PLoS ONE.

This study emerges as bats have been making the news due to a bizarre fungus that is killing millions of bats. In March 2013 it was reported, the deadly bat fungus has now spread to 22 states and five Canadian provinces. It was first discovered in 2006 in upstate New York.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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