A Tiny Jumping Spider That Hunts and Devours Tadpoles Is Discovered by Scientists in India

A jumping spider eating a tadpole in the Western Ghats. Courtesy of Sagar Satpute

Spiders eat a wide variety of animals, but scientists were shocked to discover a new, tiny spider that appears to hunt and devour tadpoles.

Field biologists were taking a survey in Ratnagiri, a city in India, when they came upon a waterfall. They noticed streamlets running down the rocks at the bottom, and tadpoles shuffling up the rocks. They also noticed some type of jumping spider closely watching the tadpoles.

The spider then chose a tadpole, which was significantly larger than itself, and lunged. The brown, black and white arachnid took the amphibian, which appears to have had two partially-developed legs, in its mouthparts, dragged it away, and slowly ate it.

The biologists, including spider expert Javed Ahmed, weren't certain what species the animal belonged to, and thought that they may have come upon a previously-undescribed species. They suspect that the species was something close to Hasarius adansoni, or the Adanson's house jumper.

Botanist Sagar Satpute photographed the struggle as the spider bit into the tadpole and struggled to drag it up the muddy rock face. Satpute, Ahmed and three other scientists published a paper on the incident in the journal Peckhamia , which is dedicated specifically to jumping spiders. According to the Times of India, world-renowned arachnologist David Hill, who focuses specifically on jumping spiders, has acknowledged the discovery.

The Western Ghats is a region of India that is full of biodiversity, Ahmed told Live Science, and it's largely unexplored. The area is dense with trees and waterfalls, which are protected for their biodiversity and the tribal native people who live there. Despite the fact that much of the area is difficult to access, several species have been discovered there, including many spiders.

Tadpoles, or pollywogs, are aquatic and similar-looking to fish. However, they are the baby form of frogs, and they eventually grow legs and walk on land. Adult frogs will eat a wide variety of insects—including spiders.