Urban are places where wildlife and vegetation go to die — right?
Urban areas are causing some animals to grow. A lot. And they have triggered an enormous spider growth spurt, according to a University of Sydney study published in PLOS ONE, Independent reports. It seems that the higher average temperatures and ample food supplies in our concrete jungles are breeding spiders into bigger, meaner insect-devouring machines.
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The study: Researchers collected 222 samples of a spider species called Nephila plumipes, one of the many orb-weaver species known for its signature wheel-shaped webs. Looking at the length of the spiders' limbs, their body fat content and ovary size, researchers found that urban-dwelling spiders are growing to be far larger than their rural cousins. Orb-weaver species make up one-forth of the world's spider population, so implications for Nephila plumipes in Sydney likely apply to spiders in other urban centers around the world.
The implications: It's freaky to imagine the little eight-legged monsters of our nightmares beefing up with each generation and reaching unprecedented girth and leg span. But the study's lead researcher, Elizabeth Lowe, told Wired that this is a good thing. "They control fly and pest species populations and are food for birds," she said. That means that these larger spiders are a functioning part of an ecosystem augmented by human activity, and for the time being, they are playing an important role. Let's see how we feel after another century or two of this trend. Planet of the Spiders, anyone?