A farmer in Australia stumbled upon something unexpected over the weekend: a dead snake caught in the web of a daddy longlegs spider.
Patrick Lees, the owner of a farm of cereal crops in Weethalle, New South Wales, said that on Sunday, he found the brown snake dangling from the web of a daddy longlegs, also known as a pholcid spider. Lees took some photos of the snake and spider and shared them on Facebook; he also captured the strange encounter on video.
The daddy longlegs found by the Australian man is a spider the Pholcidae family, commonly known as cellar spiders. Because of the name ‘daddy longlegs,’ spiders in the Pholcidae family are often mistaken for crane flies (which are insects) and harvestmen (which are arachnids but not spiders).
According to one expert, the cellar spider could have killed the snake with its venom. Lorenzo Prendini, curator of Arachnida and Myriapoda at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, said that he had never seen a cellar spider catch snakes or other vertebrates in its web. However, he had seen lizards caught in the web of other spiders, including the widow spiders (also known as Latrodectus).
Prendini said that although the venom of that specific pholcid spider is mild, it may be powerful enough to kill small vertebrates.
Professor James Starrett, of San Diego State University who is also a spider expert, stated that he had also heard of black widow spiders killing vertebrates with their venom, but not of daddy longlegs doing the same thing. According to Starrett there may be two different possibilities: either the spider injured the snake and killed it, or the snake got tangled in the web and eventually wore itself out while trying to escape.
The spider will likely feed on the snake for several days, Prendini said. To liquefy the snake’s flesh, the spider will release digestive enzymes onto it. The digested juices will then be consumed by the cellar spider, leaving behind the undigested skin and bones, the researchers explained. However, the likelihood of a spider that small to eat the entire snake is quite low, according to Prendini.
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