Spiders could, theoretically, eat every human being on the planet and still be very hungry, a pair of biologists have found.
But fear not. While some arachnids snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals, they are not suggesting the eight legged creatures could begin dieting on people.
Professor Klaus Birkhofer and Dr Martin Nyffeler and have estimated that the globe’s spider population eats between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey every year.
That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined.
The collective biomass of every human on Earth on the other hand is estimated to be a mere 287 million tons - a supper that would still leave spiders peckish.
Their report in the Science and Nature journal, also estimated that spiders eat a similar amount to the world’s whales each year.
“The estimated standing biomass of the global spider community is impressive," they wrote. “There are few groups of terrestrial predaceous arthropods that can compare with spiders in terms of abundance and biomass.
“We hope that these estimates and their significant magnitude raise public awareness and increase the level of appreciation for the important global role of spiders in terrestrial food webs.”
The arachnid experts analysed the feeding patterns of 65 different spider groups.
Using existing research they came up with the 800 million ton figure after examining how many spiders live in a square meter of land for all the main habitat types on Earth, and the average amount of food consumed by the creatures of different sizes in a given year.
They also compared the spider’s feeding habits to the approximate 400 million tonnes of meat and fish that humans eat each year.