Sentinel spiders are new superhero to scientists

By NATALIE SPRATT

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have discovered an environmental contaminant in a creature that many people would like to avoid: spiders.

That discovery made in the Upper Peninsula puts spiders in the role of environmental sentinels — guardians that help scientists understand where to concentrate cleanup efforts.

A study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry looked at a heavily polluted area of the Manistique River. Scientists studied spiders there because of their place in the food web and their ability to accumulate PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in measurable quantities without harming themselves.

The findings suggest that spiders living along riverbanks “may be useful sentinels of relative PCB availability to aquatic and riparian food webs in aquatic ecosystems like rivermouths,” the study said. Continue reading