Spiders Hunt and Eat Snakes on Nearly Every Continent, Scientists Surprised to Discover

In the battle of Crippiest Crawley, some may argue that spiders and snakes are racing neck-to-neck. Both are established predators, they are the mainstay of Halloween props and spooky sets, but both play an important role as predators and prey in the ecosystem. Given their relative size, you might think most spiders versus snakes end up in favor of snakes, but a recent study has proven that often it is not.

Using their venom and powerful webs, spiders around the world can kill and eat snakes much larger than themselves, which surprised scientists. Published in the American Journal of Archeology, the researchers conducted a social analysis based on literature from around the world, as well as surveyed social media and published 319 reports of prey spiders on snakes. The locations of the report prove that snake-hunting spiders are present on every continent except Antarctica, proving that spiders are exclusive to a wide range of unusual prey items despite being fed mostly by insects.

That said, most of the reports (about 80 percent of them) came from the United States and, surprisingly, from Australia. In Europe, this is a very different story. Countries in the region accounted for only 1 percent of reported spider-eating snake-related cases and were confined to a group of daddy, non-venomous snakes from the Typhoid family.

Not all snakes were so small, but the largest of the reports was 1 meter (3.3 feet) long. The average length of the snake from the meta-analysis was 26 centimeters (10 inches), with the smallest being only 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) long. Spiders were often much smaller, catching some snakes that were 10 to 30 times larger than their size. Many of the captured snakes were far from defensive, with about a third packing their own venom. Nevertheless, spiders from the United States and South America were still seen feeding on coral snakes and rattlesnakes, and in Australia, even brown snakes – some of the world’s most venomous snakes – preyed upon by redback spiders.