Spiders pass mercury to land animals

Arachnids can be an indicator of mercury pollution in bats, birds and amphibians

Spiders that eat insects living in mercury-contaminated waters can pass the harmful chemical along to land animals that consume them. Researchers recently studied long-jawed spiders (Tetragnathidae spp.), which live on shorelines along two tributaries that flow to Lake Superior. They also looked at dragonflies and yellow perch fish (Perca flavescens) in the area. They found that when sediment was contaminated with mercury, like mercury from industrial pollution, it biomagnified up the food chain.

The findings suggest spiders could be a key link between contamination in waterways and animal that live nearby by passing the mercury on to the bats, birds and amphibians that eat them.

Read the study in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Header Image: Shoreline spiders, like the long-jawed spider, can move mercury contamination from riverbeds up the food chain to land animals. Credit: Dr. Ryan Otter, Grand Valley State University