False Widow Spider Filmed Preying On Pygmy Shrew

A noble false widow spider has been filmed feeding on a pygmy shrew, a species of tiny mammal, for the first time ever. The extraordinary discovery was made by Dawn Sturgess at a home in Chichester, West Sussex, southern England, when a small mammal was found entangled in a spider’s web constructed on the outside of a bedroom window. The shrew was still alive, but the spider’s highly potent neurotoxic venom was evidently taking effect as the shrew became increasingly incapacitated. The spider was observed hoisting the shrew upwards into the rafters where it wrapped it in silk and fed off its meal for three days. It is the first time a member of this family of spiders, called ‘Theridiidae,’ has been recorded preying on a shrew in Ireland or in Britain. It is also the first time for any species of false widow spider to prey on shrews anywhere in the world. In a new study, recently published in the international journal Ecosphere, demonstrate the potentially negative impact of the noble false widow spider on native species. Dr John Dunbar, Irish Research Council Post-Doctoral fellow, Venom Systems Lab, Ryan Institute, University of Galway, and senior author of the study says: “The noble false widow is a very intriguing spider, and we have much to learn about it still. We are very grateful to the members of the public who share their observations with us. This allows us to understand better how this invasive species may impact us and our environment." The scientists at the University of Galway are encouraging members of the public to contact them to report sightings of the noble false widow spider.