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Science & Technology

A fear of spiders may be part of our DNA

By T.K. Randall
April 6, 2015 · Comment icon 36 comments

Are we genetically predisposed to fear spiders ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Konrad Summers
Arachnophobia could be an evolutionary response based on the danger that spiders posed to our ancestors.
Perhaps the most common of all modern day phobias, a fear of spiders is likely to have been passed down over several millennia and originated with some of our earliest ancestors.

Back then, a single bite from any of several dozen venomous spider species would have invariably proven fatal. Those who were better at spotting and avoiding spiders would have been more likely to survive and pass those skills on to subsequent generations.
"A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate-specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids... and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years," said researcher Joshua New.

"Even when not fatal, a black widow spider bite in the ancestral world could leave one incapacitated for days or even weeks, terribly exposed to dangers."

Humans today therefore may simply be predisposed to fear spiders, not due to events in their own lives but because their ancestors learned to avoid them hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Source: Belfast Telegraph | Comments (36)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #27 Posted by RedSquirrel 9 years ago
That's because you have a dirty great spider stuck to your face.. Naw, that improved my looks... went from "vomit on sight" to "cringe on sight".
Comment icon #28 Posted by Blurfoot 9 years ago
A fear of anything that can harm or kill us makes perfect sense (spiders, snakes, heights) , but the fear of clowns is a little more puzzling to me.
Comment icon #29 Posted by Lenore Graves 9 years ago
spiders !! ...I dont trust em...
Comment icon #30 Posted by KariW 9 years ago
The brown recluse I spoke of earlier...after they *bite* you the skin turns like black and brown and dies. I was in the ER once getting my back checked out and a guy came in and had one of the bites. It was horrible. Apparently the doctors have to remove the entire chunks of skin and then you're left with a hole where the bite was...that is terrifying! I always check my shoes before I put them on because I heard once the little buggers like to hide in your shoes! no no no no no Okay no more spider talk for me now. I'm getting the heebie jeebies. She-ra I can totally relate! I always check my s... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by HerNibs 9 years ago
I think I'm broken. Not afraid of spiders, snakes or lizards. TERRIFIED of moths, butterflies and caterpillars. Screaming hiding in closest shaking scared. Nibs
Comment icon #32 Posted by She-ra 9 years ago
Awe Nibs...not broken...just scared of different things And KariW I get it! My husband think I'm a loon most of the time anyways...shaking out the shoes is just one minor example Just kidding...but he does *shake his head* at me a lot PS: had to edit to add. I hope I'm not prying but where did you get your spider bite? What happened. Or, you can PM me. I was bit while cleaning out some palm trees in Freeport years ago. I went to the ER (a story unto itself going to an ER in a 3rd world country) and they said it must have been a black widow--the one with the red mark on the back. I can PM you t... [More]
Comment icon #33 Posted by powerplant 9 years ago
Is it just me, or is this same news reported like every 3 months? I feel like I've heard this 12 times before. Not trying to dismiss the topic/discussion, this just feels like deja vu.
Comment icon #34 Posted by Rlyeh 9 years ago
Scientist are the same ones that say man is not born with any instincts and that everything is learned. LOL They slay me. rofl. Small things amuse small minds.
Comment icon #35 Posted by ChaosRose 9 years ago
Well I'm pretty sure *some* males are fearful too. yes? no? I'd run screaming and never return to this house - EVER! That picture rocks!
Comment icon #36 Posted by She-ra 9 years ago
That picture rocks! is sort of awesome! Scared me to death

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