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Five Trillion Spiders

Western Kingbird, San Antonio NM, April 15, 2010

Spiders begin their hunting with a few handicaps. They're often smaller and weaker than their prey, and they have no wings to give chase in the air. Some species extend their legs by hydraulic pressure, using the same liquid that carries oxygen from their lungs, so they have a hard time running and breathing at the same time. Even their poison may be no match for their victim's: a crab spider's bite is to a honeybee's sting as "an air-gun compared with an elephant rifle," John Crompton wrote. Yet spiders kill at an astonishing pace. One Dutch researcher estimates that there are some five trillion spiders in the Netherlands alone, each of which consumes about a tenth of a gram of meat a day. Were their victims people instead of insects, they would need only three days to eat all sixteen and a half million Dutchmen.

From Spider Woman by Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker magazine, March 5, 2007, page 69

clipped March 23, 2007

Collection: Natural Science