The Role of Spiders in the Ecosystem
Despite our natural fear of spiders, they are mostly harmless creatures. You may be surprised to know that the role of spiders in the ecosystem is a vital one.
There are more than 4000 species of spider in the U.S. alone, so it’s not uncommon to come across them. But most species are not as dangerous as they are perceived to be. Most of them serve numerous beneficial roles in the ecosystem.
Read on to learn about the role of spiders in the ecosystem and the amazing purposes of some scary spiders. It may ease your phobia of spiders and change how you look at them.
Prey on Insects
A primary role of spiders in the ecosystem is insect population control. Most spiders rely on insects as a source of food. By eating away at them, spiders do an immense service to the ecosystem. As a majority of insects are problematic for people, plants, and crops, spiders are crucial to reducing their numbers.
A single spider can eat around 2000 insects in a year, playing a critical role in regulating insect population in the world.
Among the most dangerous insects that spiders consume are mosquitoes which carry deadly viruses like Zika, West Nile, malaria, and dengue. In fact, mosquitoes are among the favorite food choices of spiders over all other prey. By eating away at mosquitoes, spiders directly reduce the population of them, thus controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
Beneficial to Agriculture
Spiders protect our food sources and are often used to control insects in orchards and fields. They protect our crops by controlling agricultural pests like grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars that feed upon fruits, leaves, and seeds.
In China and South America, spiders are found in rice fields feeding upon insects. In Israel, they are widely used in apple orchards to keep the insect population under control and prevent them from damaging crops.
By controlling pest populations, spiders reduce crop damage eventually increasing the yields which benefit the economy.
Arachnids are obligate predators and have to consume other animals for survival. Besides insects, some spider species are habitual for killing and eating other arachnids. In this way, they also help us by keeping their own population under control.
Besides serving as a predator in the ecosystem spiders are also an essential food source for bigger animals like lizards, wasps, and birds. So, they hold a vital position in the food chain.
Spiders are of great importance in the medical field and have been used for various research and product development. Venom by its name is believed to be toxic and harmful, but it can also be quite beneficial. Spider venom has the potential to treat several ailments.
It’s a safe painkiller which can be productively used to treat muscular dystrophy and strokes. Also, the venom itself is an excellent anti-venom and is used to treat bites from toxic spiders.
A unique role of spiders in the ecosystem goes to silk spiders. They use silk to spin their webs, and the silk they produce has innumerable benefits. Spider silk is one of the most remarkable materials in the world. It is lightweight, flexible, stretchy, almost transparent, and practically stronger than steel.
The great flexibility and strength of spider silk make it useful in numerous applications.
Its strength can be used in making strong building materials, and even in making bullet proof vests. The flexibility of it makes it practical to be used in flexible suspensions. Also, it has already been used in optical measuring devices, and for producing cross-hairs in telescopes.
Research is being conducted to insert the silk-making gene of silk spiders in other species, and even other animals, to augment the production of silk and to maximize its usage.
Scientists are trying to understand the silk-spinning process and the science behind it. Studies are being done on it so that hopefully one day they will be able to mimic it.
Our Survival Depends on Spiders?
Renowned arachnid specialist Norman Platnick has said, “If spiders disappeared, we would face famine.” It may sound like an extreme statement, but considering the roles these tiny arachnids play in the ecosystem, it’s fair to say our food chain will face a hard blow if spiders go extinct.
Without spiders, it would be tough for humanity to survive on earth.
Both flora and fauna depend heavily upon spiders for their survival, and spiders’ extinction will have severe adverse effects on them. We can’t estimate the magnitude of “insect apocalypse” that would occur if we remove spiders out of the natural ecosystem. But one thing is for sure; it will be devastating and beyond our control.
Unfortunately, little research and effort are being done to conserve the spider’s population as they are facing habitat loss due to massive urban development. Also, farmers now rely more on pesticides to control pests and bugs in their fields. This, in turn, is polluting the air and ground making it difficult for spiders to survive there.
Some spider species are at the threshold of extinction. To prevent and protect species from dying out, scientists need to take them seriously. Measure should be taken to conserve their population. Even though most people despise them, it is a fact that the role of spiders in the ecosystem provide many beneficial services to the natural ecosystem.***
More Related Articles About Spiders: