Until today, milk secretion is believe to be a process exclusive to mammals, but then, some researchers found out that not only some cockroaches can produce milk, but the roach milk is supposedly richer in protein and whatnot. And today, researchers from three research labs in Wuhan and Yunnan, China, has discovered that some spiders can produce milk too. Well, sort of. The ‘some spiders’ is Toxeus Magnus, a type of jumping spider native to Southeast Asia.
The scientists noted a strange phenomena with this particular species of spider. The young grow at rapid pace and yet, neither the infants nor the mother leaves the nests to hunt for food. Without food, it is unlikely that the younglings could reach nearly half adult size in just 20 days, but it did. Then one night, researcher Zhanqi Chen noticed something peculiar.
Chen noticed a baby spider attached to the mother’s belly and thought, the spider mother must be feeding the babies with something it has produced. Putting the mother spiders under the microscope, Chen and his colleagues gently squeezed the mommy spiders’ abdomens and boom! There it was, droplets of creamy white fluid emerged.
The fluid looked very much like those produced by human or other mammals. Subsequent analysis revealed that the milk-like fluid contains fat and around four times more protein than cow’s milk. What’s even more amazing is, Toxeus Magnus behaves much like humans where the young will consume a mixture of mix and food as they grow older.
In the case of Toxeus Magnus younglings, they started to hunting for food after 20 days, but they wean until 40 days old. During the 21-40 days, the young spiders will feed on both hunted insects and milk. It is an interesting revelation that is also a reminder that there are still much to learn about Mother Nature. And no, the researchers did not advocate nor suggest that this so-called spider milk could be a superfood. And it is a good thing because, I am not looking forward to sipping on any.
Featured image: Zhanqi Chen et al.