Fear of spiders

I am afraid of spiders, and for no good reason it must be said.  I’ve never witnessed my family being eaten by spiders.  The chances of a spider ever causing me serious damage are miniscule.  I am not a grasshopper.

Grasshoppers are, quite rightly, scared of spiders.

Over at Not Exactly Rocket Science, there’s a really interesting article on how the presence of spiders affects grasshoppers.  The researchers who carried out the study, not only investigated how being kept in an enclosure with or without a spider present affected the stress hormones and metabolism of the grasshoppers, but also affected how the effects on their bodies were passed on to the ecosystem after their deaths.

“When the grasshoppers died, Hawlena buried their corpses in pots of soil within his lab, and let them decay for 40 days. He then added dead plants to the soil and used lasers to measure how quickly the carbon from their sugars and proteins was transferred into minerals or other compounds. This ‘mineralisation rate’ reflects how quickly the plants were decomposing.”

They found that the more stressed the grasshoppers were, the slower the plants added to the soil decayed.

I find this study got me asking several questions

– Is it fair that the spiders used in the study had their mouthparts glued shut?

– Is it realistic to bury the grasshoppers, when in a natural ecosystem they may be more likely to be eaten or at least left to rot on the surface?

– What goes through a researchers head to make them think “right, now I know the effect on the grasshoppers themselves, lets bury them and see what happens to the soil ecosystem?”

Fascinating stuff!

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