Small, but mighty: Some jumping spiders can overpower and devour their larger, cold-blooded, would-be predators, according to scientists writing in the Journal of Arachnology.
Biologist Martin Nyffeler at the University of Basel in Switzerland spends his days studying arachnid and insect eating habits. Over the last few years, he and his colleagues have made some astounding discoveries. For one, not only do spiders consume millions of tons of bugs each year, but they also eat fish, and bats, and plants. With a palate this broad, a hunger this big, and a ferocity to match, why wouldn't little spiders occasionally order off the reptile and amphibian menu? The researchers decided to search the scientific literature for reports of spider-on-frog-or-lizard action.
They found plenty. Their search unearthed one sighting in Costa Rica and eight separate instances in seven different Florida counties, all initiated by a single species. The regal jumping spider may weigh less than one-tenth of an ounce, but that apparently doesn't stop it from going after frogs and small lizards called anoles.
One report came from local nature blogger Loret Setters, who watched a Cuban tree frog disappear into a regal jumping spider's mouth.
"He was staring me down, like, 'You're next!'" Setters told National Geographic. "I was completely shocked."
This remarkable reversal of the predator-prey relationship is made possible by jumping spiders' specialized hunting skills. Unlike most spiders, which spin webs and then lie in wait, jumping spiders stalk their prey like tigers. They have incredibly good vision and decent hearing, and they're all venomous.
Behavioral ecologist Thomas C. Jones of East Tennessee State University was not involved with the study but says spiders likely only go after frogs and lizards when easier meals are scarce.
"They do tend to get bolder as they get hungrier," he said.
[h/t National Geographic News]