People might be a lot less afraid of spiders if they only realized what they actually do for us. They keep the mosquito population down, of court, and leave beautiful works of art wherever they can find room to spin a web.
They also make milk.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a new health craze threatening to outsell your favorite flavor of cashew hazelnut coconut creamer. It’s just for their babies.
According to New Scientist, entomologists have discovered a species of ant-mimicking jumping spider that raises its young on its own colostrum. Toxeus magnus will continue to nurse its babies for weeks after they are big enough to find their own food.
Bringing a colony of T. magnus into his lab, behavioural ecologist Chen Zhanqi of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, noticed that the baby spiders didn’t leave their nest for at least 20 days. Meanwhile, their mother hadn’t brought them any food.
The mother nourishes her spiderlings by squeezing droplets of “milk” out of her epigastric furrow, the opening she uses to lay eggs. For nearly three weeks after they’ve hatched, ma T. magnus feeds her young this nutrient-rich liquid, “containing nearly four times the protein found in cow’s milk, as well as sugar and fat,” Science Alert reports.
Scientists are still unsure what this liquid is actually made of. Like frogs and bees, it could actually be a fluid form of unfertilized eggs. It’s clear this mixture is critical to the survival of young T. magnus spiders, however. The nursing period for some spider mothers lasts upwards of 40 days.
Many animals raise their babies on milk; humans, elephants, dogs, cats, even mice. It seems we can now add spiders to that list.
“The extended maternal care indicates that invertebrates have also evolved [this] ability,” Quan Rui-Chang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Science magazine.
Learn more in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.