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Groundbreaking study: Australian spiders change their venom when stressed – Science

Groundbreaking study: Australian spiders change their venom when stressed – Science

An Australian type of funnel-web spider produces different toxins depending on its emotional and physical contexts. This is indicated by a group of scientists in the country, who published the results of their research in the scientific journal PLOS ONE in May.

The new analysis indicates that heartbeat and stress can directly affect the proportion of chemicals in the extremities of an agitated spider. The venom of these species are complex mixtures and are used in the production of various compounds such as natural pesticides and medicines. By understanding more about the venom’s potency, extractions can be upgraded.

According to biologist Linda Hernandez Duran, of James Cook University in Australia, in an interview with the Science Alert portal, “Funnel web spiders have one of the most complex natural toxins in the world and are valued for their therapeutic and biocidal uses hidden in their venom molecules.”
The studies combined animals from four species: Hadronyche valida, Hadronyche infensa, Hadronyche cerberea, and Atrax robustus. They were subjected to irritation tests.

The first simulated predation, in which scientists mimic attacks with puffs of air and light nudges with pincers. The second is to leave another spider of the same species nearby. The third is to explore new territories.

During these phases, the heartbeat was monitored with a laser monitor, allowing its metabolic value to be estimated. “We collected the venom and analyzed it with a mass spectrometer,” said Linda Doran.

For most of the species analyzed, there was no association between behavior, heart rate, and venom composition. The exception was Hadronyche valida, which changes the structure of its venom.

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There is a suggestion that the associations between venom composition and the indicated physical factors that generated the variation are species-specific, but that under other conditions changes might occur in other spiders. “We don’t know yet what the potential connections to other species are,” says Science Alert.

Scientists have also discovered that angry spiders have higher metabolic costs for producing venom and displaying aggressive behavior. Hernandez’s group suggests that there are active compensations made by spiders that have yet to be discovered.

“We have shown for the first time how specific venom components are associated with specific behavior and physiological changes and demonstrate that these relationships are context dependent,” says Linda Hernandez.