x
Loading
+ -

University of Basel

19 June 2014

Fish-eating spiders discovered in all parts of the world

Spiders are traditionally viewed as predators of insects. Zoologists from Switzerland and Australia have now published a study that shows: spiders all over the world also prey on fish. The academic journal Plos One has just published the results.

Dolomedes facetus captured pond fish (genus Xiphophorus) in garden pond near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. (Image: Peter Liley, Moffat Beach, Queensland)
Dolomedes facetus captured pond fish (genus Xiphophorus) in garden pond near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. (Image: Peter Liley, Moffat Beach, Queensland)

Although viewed by ecologists as the classical predators of insects, researchers have become increasingly aware that spiders are not exclusively insectivorous. Certain larger-sized species supplement their diet by occasionally catching small fish. This shows a new study by zoologist and spider expert, Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel, Switzerland and Bradley Pusey from the University of Western Australia. The researchers gathered and documented numerous incidents of spiders preying fish from all around the world.

Fish as a diet supplement

According to their systematic review, spiders from as many as five families have been observed preying on small fish in the wild and three more families contain species that catch fish under laboratory conditions. These so called semi-aquatic spiders typically dwell at the fringes of shallow freshwater streams, ponds or swamps. These spiders, some of which are capable of swimming, diving and walking on the water surface, have powerful neurotoxins and enzymes that enable them to kill and digest fish that often exceed them in size and weight. “The finding of such a large diversity of spiders engaging in fish predation is novel. Our evidence suggests that fish might be an occasional prey item of substantial nutritional importance”, says Martin Nyffeler.

Thematic focal area
To top