Ever wondered as to what does the world’s biggest spider look like? Brace yourself for the shocking news. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest spider, known as the South American Goliath birdeater (Theraposa Blondi) weighs as much as a young puppy. Yes, it is that large a spider. Its leg span can be stretched up to 30 centimeters, and its size is comparable to that of a big fist. Who says size does not matter? Imagine how most of us would freak out at the sight of the Goliath birdeater.
Entomologist meets spider
Recently, an entomologist and photographer from the Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, Piotr Naskrecki, found an individual of the species in a rainforest in Guyana. He then took several shots of the animal. He described the sound made by the spider as follows:
“Its feet have hardened tips and claws that produce a very distinct, clicking sound, not unlike that of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground,” he wrote, but “not as loud.”
Is Goliath birdeater an actual birdeater?
It is not in its habits to feed on birds per say. But, it does have the instinct of attacking anything it comes across; it just does not usually ‘meet up’ with birds. However, if it were to find a nest with both the parents and the chicks, it could easily kill the whole family.
Otherwise, it feeds on earthworms mainly, and on frogs and insects as well.
“Earthworms are very nutritious,” Naskrecki said. “I’ve been working in the tropics in South America for many, many years, and in the last 10 to 15 years, I only ran across the spider three times.”
Defence systems: fangs, hairs with hooks, hairs with barbs
The spiders we normally find in our surroundings are so easy to kill, right? They barely have any defence system at all (despite this, they do make us scream though!). Well, our friend Goliath birdeater has some dreadful tricks at hand. He has the ability of releasing cloud of hairs that consist of microscopic barbs: if these get into the eyes and other mucous membranes, they will remain there for days, giving a painful and itchy sensation. The front part of its body also has some dangerous hairs. The latter have tiny hooks and barbs that create a hissing sound when they rub against each other. As if its appearance itself is not enough to keep other creatures away, it also has a pair of fangs 2 cm long. Furthermore, its bite is venomous, but, though painful, not deadly to us; lethal or not, that’s not the kind of encounter one would hope for going for a walk.
What became of the spider?
The entomologist thereafter got hold of his new friend and brought it to his lab for further analysis. The animal was euthanised, preserved and labelled, and is now part of a collection at the University of Guyana, where it is kept for study purposes.
Naskrecki reassured the public that the spider is “a very common species, not protected or endangered, and collecting of a single individual poses absolutely no threat to its survival.“