25 August 2015

My Son's Worst Nightmare

Charlie has a mild arachnophobia, a fear of spiders, and I just told him about a spider that sounds like his worst nightmare.

It's a jumping spider, it's aggressive, it's favorite food is human blood, and follows our smell.

Sounds scary, even to someone like me who finds spiders to be a fascinating member phylum Arthropoda.

It turns that this little 8 legged beast is actually good for people.

His lust for human blood is limited to human blood inside of the body of an anopheles mosquito:

A new study by researchers at New Zealand's University of Canterbury and the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology looked at what these spiders like to eat. They found, reiterating what previous studies have also, that these "mosquito terminators" shouldn't be feared at all — they should be viewed as friends.

(I know, friends sounds like quite a stretch. But follow me here.)

Female Anopheles mosquitoes carry and spread malaria. It's a preventable yet deadly disease that's responsible for about 500,000 deaths a year. Even though that figure has dropped significantly since 2000, allowing half a million preventable deaths is still, by any measure, unacceptable.

Here's the good news: The Evarcha culicivora has a specialized craving for those female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Feasting on our blood gives these spiders an odor that attracts mates. So, naturally, they're gunning for it. But earlier — when I said these spiders love our blood — I didn't say it had to be in us. Funny story: These spiders' mouths aren't even equipped to bite humans.
They can, however, snack on human blood carried by malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.

"This is unique," Fiona Cross, who co-authored the study, told The Guardian. "There's no other animal that targets its prey based on what that prey has eaten."
Not quite as scary now, huh?


Stephen Montsaroff said...

I love this creature and want it as a pet.

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