In the realm of irrational terror, arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, ranks pretty high. Which is precisely why if you count yourself as an arachnophobe, you may want to avert your eyes. A University of Michigan-led team of biologists researching “predator-prey interactions in the Amazon rainforest” say they have documented 15 unusual instances of giant tarantulas and other Amazonian arthropod predators feasting on large reptiles and mammals as big as an opossum.
In a video posted to YouTube, researcher Mike Grundler, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology, described the discovery:
“We were just walking the trails, walking along slowly, and we heard a scrabbling in the leaf litter. And we looked over and we saw the tarantula on top of the possum.”
Grundler said the spider was the size of a “dinner plate.”
According to University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky, giant spiders are “an underappreciated source of mortality among vertebrates. A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes.”
Spiders, considered one of the more diverse arthropod predators, have been known to feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. However, an opossum expert at the American Museum of Natural History confirmed that the team’s find is the “first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider preying on an opossum.”
[Feature pic courtesy of Maggie Grundler/Amphibian Reptile Conservation/amphibian-reptile-conservation.org]