Arachnophobia could be a product of human evolution, according to new research.
Spiders presented such a great danger to humans during the early evolutionary stages that a fear of the species became part of our DNA.
In Africa, early in human evolution, those with a keen ability to spot the creatures outlived their less wary counterparts, according to The Sunday Times.
Joshua New of Columbia University in New York said: “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.”
10 Deadliest Animals In The World
10 Deadliest Animals In The World
1/10 10: Poison Dart Frog
They might look cute, but the backs of the Amazonian poison dart frog ooze a slimy neurotoxin to keep predators away. Each frog produces enough of the toxin to kill 10 humans.
2/10 9: Polar Bear
The strength of a polar bear is enough to decapitate a human being with a single swipe of the paw.
3/10 8: African Elephant
The brute force of an elephant is unrivalled by any land mammal. Weighing in around 16,000lb on average, they are responsible for around 500 human deaths each year.
4/10 7: Cape Buffalo
Cape Buffalos charge head-on with their razor-sharp horns when confronted with a predator - all 1,500lb of them. And the problem is, they tend to do so as a herd.
5/10 6: Crocodile
The stealth and combined strength of a crocodile allows it to lie in the water undetected, before it strikes, drags its pray underwater, barrel rolls and dismembers it.
6/10 5: African Lion
These big cats are ruthlessly agile, armed with razor-sharp teeth and talons and near-perfect hunters.
7/10 4: Great White Shark
These kings of the sea have 3,000 teeth with which to tear their pray to shreds. On average, are 15ft long and 5,000lb, and can detect a drop of blood in 25 gallons of water.
8/10 3: Australian Box Jellyfish
Each tentacle has 5,000 stinging cells and enough toxin to kill 60 humans. Each jellyfish has 60 tentacles each at 15 ft long. That's a lot of killing power for an animal the size of a salad bowl.
9/10 2: Asian Cobra
It might not be the most poisonous snake, but thanks to its unique spit and strike attack technique, the Asian Cobra is responsible for more human deaths than any other snake on the planet.
10/10 1: Mosquito
Tiny but deadly, mosquitoes carry and transfer malaria causing parasites to humans. As a result, they cause on average 2million human deaths a year, making the insect one of the world's deadliest creatures. Aside from human beings, of course.
“Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.
“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.”
The study tested how quickly people could spot a spider when presented with a number of other images.
Of the 252 people reviewed in the study, most recognised the spiders much quicker than other images known to induce fear, such as flies and needles.
There are, however, other theories that have been suggested to explain human fear of spiders.
Plymouth University Psychology professor, Jon May, suggested that it is their angular legs, dark colours and unpredictable movements that make archnids so unpalatable to humans.
Professor May said: “Spiders just tick all these boxes, and like any phobia, when it builds up in someone’s mind they can become scared even seeing a picture.
”We like bright-coloured butterflies and ladybirds, but spiders are dark coloured with long angular legs – and the shape and colour both have strong negative associations.
“We are also very sensitive to seeing things moving out of the corner of our eye and immediately notice it, and insects move quickly and unpredictably.”
In contrast to the research from Columbia University, May has also suggested that this fear is developed through social conditioning , as children are much more likely to become arachnophobic if they see parents or siblings reacting to the creatures in a certain way.