HomePLANTS & ANIMALSScientists discover tarantula-killing worms

Scientists discover tarantula-killing worms

Scientists have discovered a species of worm that kills tarantulas. They have named it after American actor, musician and producer Jeff Daniels.

Scientists said, there are 25,000 described species of these worms’ named nematodes. They are one of the most abundant species on Earth. But this is the second time it has ever been found to infect tarantulas.

Scientists have named it Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi. Because Daniels’ character Arachnophobia saved a town from a deadly infestation of spiders in the 1990 film.

The research paper has been published in the Journal of Parasitology.

A wholesale tarantula breeder contacted Dillman for identifying a mysterious infection in tarantulas, in 2019. Scientists send specimen for inspection and an odd white mass around the mouth area. Scientists recognised the white areas immediately as nematodes.

European scientists identified the first nematodes found on tarantulas. Scientists examined the worms themselves. They did not examine the worms as found on the spiders.

Tarantulas become infected and begin to exhibit strange behaviors like walking around on tiptoe and not eating. The appendages that control the tarantula’s fangs stopped working.

Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, a tarantula parasite named for American actor Jeff Daniels
Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, a tarantula parasite named for American actor Jeff Daniels, who played a famous spider-killing character. Credit: Adler Dillman/UCR

Scientists confirmed the jeffdanielsi infection is lethal, scientists learned how the worms reproduce, and where on the spiders they reside.

Jeffdanielsi are self-fertilizing hermaphrodites. It produces their own sperm and eggs. A single hermaphrodite can produce 160 babies in its lifespan. Its lifespan is 11 days. Scientists do not know how long they can live on a tarantula.

Scientists also found that the nematodes only inhabited the mouth area. They did not cause damage to the exterior of the tarantulas.

Scientists grew the worms in the laboratory. They make a stronger case that they are bacteria eaters.

Scientists could not solve how the nematodes are able to change the tarantulas’ behavior. They do not know how they paralyze their pedipalps. Scientists are planning additional studies to understand this. They are trying to understand how breeders can treat or even prevent jeffdanielsi infections.


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