Just when you think you can't fear spiders any more than you already do, new research comes out of Florida to change everything. A species of spider called the jumping spider reportedly eats the brains of animals three times its size - including vertebrates - something it's not known to do. These brain-thirsty creatures, which weigh in at just a tenth of an ounce, use their cunning skills to take down lizards and frogs. Scientists are calling the discovery incredible. And while this sounds like a bad thing, it appears the spiders attack an invasive frog that causes havoc in Florida. So, while the spiders' behavior remains somewhat scary, their zombie behavior appears to be helping out another growing problem.
Scientists knew jumping spiders were capable of some pretty cool stuff, but a recent study confirms jumping spiders take down lizards and frogs up to three times their size. Nature photographers first noticed this phenomenon, which they relayed back to scientists based in Florida. Under observation, they found the spider only attack lizards and frogs when their other food sources run dry.
The most shocking development of this discovery comes from the fact that lizards usually eat spiders, not the other way around. Despite jumping spiders being the largest family of spider, certain types of lizards eat them as part of their diet. Scientists previously thought it was a result of the spider's small size and their inability to take down larger prey.
"Many frog and lizard species are known to include spiders ... in their diets," said the study's co-author Martin Nyggeler, a conservation biologists at Switzerland's University of Basel. "I'm very impressed that there is a jumping spider species capable of killing and eating small frogs and lizards."
Spiders are really agile hunters, and jumping spiders make for one of nature's most efficient killers. They possess terrific eyesight, have extremely unique movement that allows them to be very agile. Some spiders are known to count, which scientists believe helps them "trick" their prey. They know how many prey are in the ther web, when to stop hunting because they've reached maximum capacity. They can measure weight in their webs, attract creatures to them, and sneak up on their prey when they least expect it.
Based on the hunting habits of spiders, scientists say they wouldn't be shocked if this has happened for a while. Jumping spiders get bolder when they're hungry, and they're known to be cunning and aggressive hunters. But since such spiders are shy and avoid human contact, scientists believe this trait probably caused them to go largely unnoticed.