Tarantulas may look like the most dangerous spider species, but there is a different kind of eight-legged being that has a strong appetite for reptiles, namely, snakes. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Arachnology, a spider such as a North American Black Widow can most definitely kill and eat the legless creature.
"I was surprised that snake-eating by spiders could be found on all continents (except Antarctica)," said Martin Nyffeler, the study leader and spider expert at Switzerland's University of Basel. Does this mean that these creatures are crawling around our backyards?
While thankfully, that answer is likely no, many details are still being sorted out thanks to the results of the journal's study. Nyffeler and J. Whitefield Gibbons of the University of Georgia sourced any and all literature they could get their hands on to find out more answers.
"I was surprised that so many different spider groups are capable of killing and eating snakes. [And] that so many different snake species are occasionally killed by spiders," Nyffeler continued. Their observations showed that of 300 snake-death-by-spider incidents, 40+ spider species fall into the family of Theridiidae.
This includes black widows and their offspring, which soon became an important part of the study. Next came a deep dive into the species' eating habits. Thus, it was found: The average snake that spiders dine on is typically about 10 inches long. But, how does the little creature catch and eat the reptile? From their above-ground perch, a Theridiidae spider will spin a web that extends to the ground, then once a snake slithers through it and gets caught, it will deliver a paralyzing venomous bite.
The spider will then wrap its victim in its silk, move it to a dining area, and dig in. According to the study, the eating process could take as long as several days to weeks. Emily Taylor, snake biologist and director of California Polytechnic State University's Physiological Ecology of Reptiles Laboratory, explained, "There's no easy way for a [snake] to defend itself with venom against a spider."