Alien Brown Snakes Help Spiders Overrun Guam

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Sept. 17 2012 4:16 PM

Alien Brown Snakes Help Spiders Overrun Guam

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Attention arachnophobes and friends of Indiana Jones, this will totally creep you out.

A recent study reveals that the jungles of Guam have been overrun by spiders, with 40 times the population of nearby Pacific islands. This whopper of a web count seems to be the direct result of human intervention in the natural top-down balance of Guam's ecosystem with the introduction of the brown tree snake in the 1940s. The bird-munching, uninvited invader, whose predator-free population exploded over the decades, has so dramatically reduced avian populations in the jungles that the number of spiders—and their insect diet—is burgeoning.

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Despite costly efforts to eradicate the slithering predator, the snakes, and therefore the spiders, continue multiplying. Though man-made food-chain disruption has been experienced in small-scale experiments, the spider boom on Guam is a monstrous real-life manifestation to be filed under ecological cautionary tale.

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