Headline compares spiders' prey to human biomass

Spiders could theoretically eat humans in one year

KUSA - It's a headline that is making a lot of people's skin crawl: "spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year."

Two researchers who studied how much prey spiders eat and how much it all weighs concluded spiders eat between 400 to 800 million tons of prey each year.

The Washington Post article compared the estimate of 400 to 800 million tons of prey to the biomass of all adult humans on Earth, which back in 2005, other researchers estimated is 287 million tons.

9NEWS took this bizarre headline to Paula Cushing, curator of invertebrate zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

"Another little factoid that was interesting in the original article is they estimated the total amount of meat that humans eat, the 7 billion humans that are on earth, is less than the total weight of insects that spiders are eating," Cushing said.

"That would have been a cool headline, but no," she added jokingly about the Washington Post article headline.

Cushing studies spiders for a living. While she says, yes those numbers add up,  there is absolutely no reason to make that connection.

"We're not their (spiders) prey, I think you're a lot more likely to get eaten by your house cat than by the spiders that are living inside your home," Cushing said. "They just have this initial ick factor, this initial ick response, even though spiders are incredibly important for controlling insect populations worldwide."

Cushing says the new research highlights the key role spiders have in keeping ecosystems healthy, and that is getting lost in the mix.

"Without that predator part of the community that exists in those terrestrial habitats - those terrestrial habitats would lose a lot of their ecological health. That's really the message to get across is how important spiders are and how important a part of earth's biodiversity they are," she said.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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