Giant Amazon spider caught dragging possum in rainforest

Olive Hawkins
March 2, 2019

"A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes", he said.

Among the images recorded with a cell phone is a "dinner plate-size tarantula dragging a young opossum across the forest floor", according to a February 28 press release from the university. The work involved documenting "rare and disturbing" sightings of spiders and centipedes eating frogs, lizards and snakes.

It's something straight out of a horror movie: A giant tarantula - the size of a dinner plate - grabs an opossum and drags it through the Amazon rainforest. "The opossum had already been grasped by the tarantula and was still struggling weakly at that point, but after about 30 seconds it stopped kicking".

Their findings have been published in the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.

A team of researchers led by University of MI biologists found some surprising things about the diets of large spiders and centipedes in the Amazon, according to a news release from the university. During the night, the researchers would head out in single file, headlamps on, watching and listening for life. We've seen spiders in South America and Australia chowing down on snakes, mice, and birds, and spiders that eat fish can be found round the globe.

As well as spider attacks, the team also documented centipedes feasting on vertebrates.

In footage posted to YouTube by the university, researcher Mike Grundler, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the school, describes the encounter with the nightmare-inducing spider.

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According to Mike Grundler, a University of MI ecology and evolutionary biology PhD candidate, the team was walking through the forest at night when they heard a sound.

A wandering spider (Ctenidae) preys on a subadult Cercosaura eigenmanni lizard in the Amazon rainforest.

They noted the opossum - around the size of a fist - was still alive when they spotted it.

Grundler's sister Maggie pulled out her cellphone and shot photos and some video.

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"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Grundler said in the release.

An opossum expert at the American Museum of Natural History later confirmed they had captured the first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider preying on an opossum. "They are opportunistic feeders and they'll take whatever they can subdue", arachnologist Rick West, who was not a part of the research group, told the magazine, adding that they typically feed on frogs. According to researchers, while they knew that what they were witnessing was special, at the moment they were unaware that it was the first observation.

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