'Dinner Plate'-Sized Spider Seen Dragging Off Opossum For Furry Meal

Olive Hawkins
March 3, 2019

If you're an arachnophobe, you might want to exit out of your browser or look away for this one.

"What stands out at night is the amount of spiders you see on all sorts of substrates-on the ground, on leaves, on branches", says von May, whose paper appeared today in the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.

"A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes", said University of MI associate professor Daniel Rabosky in the release.

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.

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. "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". The scientists also recorded the first evidence of a tarantula clutching one particularly unexpected victim: a young mouse opossum (Marmosops noctivagus) that was about the same size as the spider, a species in the Pamphobeteus genus.

Maggie Grundler, Michael's sister, pulled out her cellphone and started shooting video of the encounter.

Later, Robert Voss, a mammologist at the American Museum of Natural History, confirmed they had captured the first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider-commonly known as a tarantula-hunting and eating an opossum.

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"Predation of small vertebrates by arthropods has been documented in several lowland rainforest sites, yet our knowledge of these interactions remains limited, especially given the diversity of vertebrate prey and potential arthropod predators in species-rich tropical communities", the researchers explained in their paper.

He and his colleagues then watched a tarantula attack a mouse opossum, striking it in its neck, according to the report.

As for the searing image of a giant spider carting off a cute, furry critter, Rabosky, who leads the research team, said it's not as scary as it may seem.

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

A tarantula snacks on a Bolivian bleating frog.

Most of the expeditions in the forest were at night, when the predators are more active.

Majority were recorded at night; most of the predators recorded were spiders; and most of the prey were amphibians.

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