Who knew spiders were so lucrative?

It’s like dealing cocaine. An arachnid kingpin, Lorenzo Prendini, curator of arachnids at the American Museum of Natural History, was arrested in Istanbul as he attempted to smuggle 1500 spiders and scorpions out of Turkey. The Turkish police aired a video showing how they tracked the criminal through the airport — looking like an obvious nerd, very suspicious — and then laying out bags and vials full of spiders and spider parts, like they were illicit goods bravely seized from a cabal of nefarious criminals.

They claim, “It has an estimated market value of around $10 million.” Wow. They threw him in a Turkish prison. Look at this smug badass.

He’s my hero.

Of course, they released him after a day when they noticed that he had permits for all of his biological specimens. I hope he’s now strutting around the AMNH like the Walter White or Scarface of arachnology.

Years ago, I was invited to debate one of Harun Yahya’s disciples in Istanbul — I turned it down without a moment’s thought because I figured taking an atheist position in Turkey would get me arrested (also, Yahya was such a fool that I would gain nothing from the encounter.) It’s too bad he’s in prison and his creationist organization dismantled, because now I might consider it for the opportunity to score a cool few million dollars in smuggled baggies full of dead spiders.

Hey, where did they get that market value of $10 million? Who would they sell them to?


  1. birgerjohansson says

    The Turkish police – like the rest of the country- has never made the full transition to a democratic society. While law enforcement in democracies are full of dimwits, it must be significantly worse in Erdoganland (previously Kemal Ataturkland).

  2. Tethys says

    Oh my, that’s a lot of scorpions and spiders.
    I’m not sure what the Turkish police think people do with dead spiders that would make them worth 10 million.

  3. StevoR says

    Tangential and not a spider but a distant early relative of them – so I gather – along with being related to the Eurypterids (circa Ordovician – Silurian for latter) but Horseshoe crab blood is worth a huge sumof money – to Humans anyhow. Lif eitself to the “crabs” who ain’t selling it themselves. (Are we their vampires?)

    Horseshoe crabs, a 450-million-year-old living fossil, are on the verge of extinction, according to conservationists, due to the pharmaceutical industry’s need for their blood.The industry of breeding horseshoe crabs, on the other hand, is growing, according to The Verge. The blue blood of horseshoe crabs is so precious that a gallon is worth $60,000.

    .. (Snip!)..The crab’s blood includes amebocytes, which protect the crabs from disease-causing germs; it is also vulnerable to bacterial toxins, which is why it is used to make Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL), a chemical used in the medical industry to identify contamination. The amoebocytes are harvested from the crab, which has been alive for over 450 million years and is sometimes referred to as a living fossil. Hundreds of thousands of people are milked of their copper-laden blood every year because the medical establishment has become so reliant on LAL.

    They are collected from beaches in the United States, many of which near the Atlantic Ocean’s shore, and then returned to beaches far from where they were collected to minimize unintended recollection. Unfortunately, between 10% and 30% of the organisms die during and after the bleeding process, and females who survive are significantly less likely to mate..


  4. moarscienceplz says

    Turkey is off my travel wish list until they turn the Hagia Sophia back into a secular museum.

  5. seachange says

    I am not in any way suggesting that all y’all ‘should believe in this’ but there is an explanation.

    There is a Hadith that says Mohammed’s life was saved by a spider. Muslims are not supposed to kill anycritter wantonly (so presumably you could on-purpose and in limited number my guess this is an exception for hoopah-hunt-crazy nobles) except for food or self-defense.

    That’s a lot of arachnids, so it seems wanton. Therefore the biological permit is a vital part of this story. The ten million then it is (my guess) a public description of Turkiyeish intent to demonstrate environmental concern.

  6. timothyeisele says

    I saw some news articles when this first happened, and they were claiming that the dollar value was based on the price of scorpion venom. It seems there is at least one scorpion farmer in Turkey that sells the stuff for that kind of price, which is probably why the Turkish police were making the connection between transporting scorpions and big money.


  7. says

    “Hey, where did they get that market value of $10 million?”

    Same way US police do when bragging about a drug bust: Take the first number you think of, add 100 and multiply by a million.

  8. sparc says

    Everybody who intends to export any species from any country should be aware of the local regulations and the Nagoya protocols.The later are intended to provide shares of any commercial benefit to the countries of origin. Unfortunately, the US has not ratified the protocols and seeningly won’t do that.

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