The Biter Bit Indeed

There is interesting news this week for those battling the persistent incidence of malaria. The mosquito that spreads the parasite by its micro-vampire act has a cuddly predator in the African Jumping Spider. At this point, the arachnophobes should get a firm grip on the arms of their chairs. The Jumper likes to feast on human blood too but doesn’t have the teeth for it. It has developed a neat solution though – it devours the replete mosquito.

There are two good news parts to this study by Cross and Jackson in the The Royal Society’s Biology Letters (1). Our little athletic gourmet get so wildly enthusiastic at the sight of the menu that, like the kid in the candy store, she grabs more than she can eat. Her frenzied killing spree, engendered by the smell of blood, can result in as many as 20 bodies on the dinner table before she stops to nibble delicately at one or two, and now like a well brought up lady, she leaves the table without gorging herself.

The other interesting discovery is that just as the mosquitoes are attracted by the smell of humans, so are the spiders. What really brings them jumping is the smell of sweaty feet. The study was carried out with sweaty socks, so nobody had to place their toes at risk. We now have a scientifically based excuse for not picking up our dirty, sweaty clothes and putting them tidily away – we are helping to combat mosquitoes. Will the African Jumping Spider be the pet of choice with US teens to help combat the risk of West Nile virus, and having to tidy their rooms?

1. 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1233 Biol. Lett

One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Now, see, science is sooo full of fascinatin' stuff! Makes for such great reading. Can't wait to train my jumping spiders to bring those mosquitoes down, especially as there are going to be more of them around, and through more of the year due to the weather being so mild around here.

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