Jurgen Otto via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Jurgen Otto via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Spiders Eat Hundreds of Millions of TONS of Bugs Every Year

Jurgen Otto via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Jurgen Otto via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Arachnophobes might cherish the idea of a world without spiders, but consider this: Without them, the planet would be covered in a thick, wriggling blanket of other bugs. Researchers writing in the journal The Science of Nature estimate that our spider friends gobble up 400 to 800 million tons of insects and other small prey every single year.

It’s a myth that you’re never more than 3 feet from a spider, and it’s a myth that we’re all constantly swallowing spiders in our sleep. But spiders are definitely plentiful; the authors of the new study calculated an average of 131 spiders per square meter of land. But we’re hardly talking about an even distribution here; most of those little creatures are concentrated in forests and fields.

Next, the scientists added up the mass of all the spiders on the planet, then used their eating habits to calculate the annual weight of their collective meals. The exact number is tricky to pin down, but the authors say it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of tons.

To put that in context: Human beings consume around 400 million tons of meat and fish per year. Relative to spiders, our bodies, and the bodies of our prey, are enormous. But the itsy-bitsy spiders are giving us a run for our money, eating at least that much meat in the form of bugs and very small vertebrates like lizards, birds, and mammals.

Or, put another way—imagine all the meat and fish you’ve eaten, say, this week. Now imagine that same space and weight occupied by bugs. Now imagine that those bugs are gone, because our spider neighbors took care of them.

As The Washington Post notes, if you added together all the adult humans on the planet, our biomass would only total 287 million tons, which means that "the global spider community," as the researchers call it, could theoretically digest all of us and have room left for dessert. But spiders don't want to eat people, and most of them couldn't even if they wanted to.

Spiders aren’t bad, nor are the bugs they eat—nor are the animals that eat spiders. We need them all to make this wonderful world of ours go round. So the next time you see a spider, maybe let it know you appreciate its hard work by leaving it be. We kind of owe them.

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]


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