It’s official, science now knows 50,000 species of spiders

It’s official, science now knows 50,000 species of spiders

Part of the population may have a horror of spiders, but that does not prevent them from playing a fundamental ecological role.

The Natural History Museum in Bern, the Swiss capital, has a tradition of keeping an impressive register called the World Spider Catalog. As its name suggests, its objective is to catalog all the species of spiders living on Earth. According to AFP, it has just passed a symbolic milestone by officially recording the discovery of its 50,000th species. And that’s probably just the beginning!

This figure was reached thanks to the discovery of Guriurius minuano. This species discovered by the arachnologist Kimberly S. Marta accompanied by Brazilian colleagues. It was named in honor of the minuano, a tribe that disappeared from southern Brazil.

It is a jumping spider of the salticidae family; they are recognized in particular by the particular arrangement of their eyes. They have two large central eyes and two small side eyes at the front of the head, but also a pair of small eyes on each side. They therefore have an exceptionally wide field of vision.

Combine this vision with the ability that gave them their name – jumping – and you get formidable predators that can make life difficult for the most evasive insects from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.

© Natur Historisches Museum Bern

50,000 species and as many still to be discovered

The Natural History Museum of Bern emphasizes that this catalog of 50,000 entries was not built overnight. The institution explains that the first documented specimen in the catalog dates from 1957 – that is 265 years ago! However, the researchers also say that these 50,000 species are probably only the beginning.

They estimate that this total includes about half of the existing species. This means that there would still be at least as many to discover, for a total of more than 100,000 distinct species. Suffice to say that arachnologists still have their work cut out for them!

But contrary to what one might instinctively imagine, this goal is anything but out of reach. And for good reason; according to the Swiss researchers, the rate at which new species have been discovered has increased steadily. According to AFP, the researchers estimate that it will take “less than 100 years” to supply the other half of the catalog.

But above all, this great 50,000th is a golden opportunity to try to restore a little bit the image of these animals too often feared and unloved. Indeed, even if they tend to trigger spectacular reactions, especially in patent arachnophobes, there is no particular reason to be afraid of them.

© Natur Historisches Museum Bern

Valiant yet unloved ecological soldiers

It starts with the fact that the vast majority of spiders just aren’t venomous enough to kill a human. On a planetary scale, only about ten people die each year from a spider bite, and none in France. In addition, in most cases, the victim had an allergic background. For comparison, it is estimated that snakes are responsible for 80,000 to 140,000 deaths each year.

Moreover, the phrase “small beasts don’t eat big ones” also holds true in their case. There is simply no species of spider that identifies humans as prey; this means that they will never, under any pretext, seek to actively attack a human. They will only do so as a defensive reflex.

Finally, researchers also take the opportunity to remind us that our eight-legged friends are eminently important players in our ecosystems. “Spiders are the most important predators of terrestrial habitats, and their ecological importance should not be underestimated.”, says the museum.

The institution estimates that they would consume “between 400 and 800 million tons of insects per year”, which would make it the very first insect regulator on a planetary scale. Indirectly, this role of ecological policeman means that they are also “of fundamental importance to humans”. So many reasons to have a little consideration for these unloved eight-legged!

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