Bat-Eating Spider Discovered

A poisonous species of spider has been found eating bats for the first time.

Researchers at the National University of Ireland in Galway studying the noble false widow spider found it preying on a protected pipistrelle bat in behavior never recorded before.

Their findings were published in the journal Ecosphere under the title "Webslinger versus Dark Knight" in a nod to comic book heroes Spider-Man and Batman.

Noble false widows are on the European Union's list of invasive species. They are thought to have arrived on the continent on ships from their native islands of Madeira and the Canaries in the North Atlantic Ocean. They were first recorded in the UK in the 1870s.

Noble false widows belong to the Theridiidae family of tangle-web spiders. The scientists who made the discovery said they believed it was the first time that any spider from this group of arachnids had been found preying on a bat.

"To actually notice that those spiders are actually capable of feeding on fairly large mammals compared to their size at least like bats is a very important discovery because it shows once again their disruptive potential in these habitats where they do not belong," a spokesperson for the NUI team said in a video posted on the university's Facebook page.

In their paper researchers said that the discovery was made at a house in Shropshire, U.K.

The scientists said a large female noble false widow spun a web directly under the bat's roost and managed to snare a young pipistrelle bat—a protected species in the U.K.

Noble false widows use poison when catching and eating their prey but are not considered very dangerous to humans. London's Natural History Museum said on their website that the pain from a noble false widow bite is comparable to a wasp sting and generally lasts between 1-12 hours.

A total of 27 different families of spiders have been found to prey on vertebrate animals such as fish and lizards before. The scientists said that female noble false widow immobilised the bat pup and then fed on it overnight.

"As [the noble false widow spider] continues to expand its range and increase its population density wherever it occurs outside of its native range, we should expect more species to fall prey to this spider, including rare, threatened, or protected species," a line from the study's conclusion read.

Screenshot of NUI video posted to Facebook
Screenshot of NUI video posted to Facebook showing evidence of the noble false widow eating a bat for the first time. The spiders are an invasive species and were first documented in the U.K. in the 1870s. NUI/Facebook