Goliath bird-eating spider

Goliath_birdeater

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The Goliath bird-eating tarantula is a huge spider living in the rain-forests of South America. More specifically, they live in the swampy areas of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and northeastern Brazil. These arachnids normally are dark to light brown in color, and like other tarantulas, these spiders are covered in sensitive hairs. These spiders got their name from Victorian-era explorers who witnessed one eating a hummingbird. In the picture above, you may be able to see two appendages above the spider’s head. These are not legs or fangs, but they are pedipalps. Many spiders have these organs, which are used to feel and push food into the spider’s mouth. Unlike most other spiders, tarantulas, including this one, have jaws that move up and down instead of side to side. Click here to see a video about this spider, and click here to see a few more (Warning: not for arachiphobes!).

Size

Goliath bird-eating tarantulas are arguably the largest spiders in the world. They are also the heaviest spiders. The award for the largest spider goes either to the giant huntsman or the Goliath bird-eating tarantula depending on what you are measuring. The giant huntsman has a larger leg-span, but the Goliath bird-eating tarantula has more body mass. These spiders can weigh up to six ounces (170 grams). This is about as much as a large apple! These giant spiders can have up to a one foot (30 cm) leg-span.

Diet

Despite their name, these spiders rarely eat birds. Their main food consists of prey that you would not normally think a spider could eat. Frogs, small snakes, lizards, and even bats are some such animals. Mostly, these spiders consume ground-dwelling animals such as insects, lizards, and snakes, but they will sometimes climb up in trees to eat other animals such as birds. In captivity, they are often fed cockroaches. When capturing prey, the Goliath bird-eating tarantula sneaks up on its next meal and attacks it, biting it with its venomous fangs.

Venom

It is almost human nature to have a little fear of spiders. Even if you don’t scream at the sight of a spider, you probably do not want one crawling on you. This fear does not usually depend on whether the spider is venomous or not, and this huge spider is venomous. Although the venom is not deadly, it can cause severe pain, nausea, and extreme sweating. Oh, this spider also has one-inch (2.5 cm) long fangs!

Predators

Like almost every other animal, huge spiders also have predators. Most of this spider’s predators are medium-sized mammals, which dig the spider out of its burrow. People that live in the same place this spider does often eat roasted Goliath bird-eating tarantulas. The most dangerous predator of this tarantula is the tarantula hawk wasp. This wasp paralyzes the spider with its sting, and then drags the spider back to the wasp net to feed its larvae.

Protection

Besides its venom, the Goliath bird-eating tarantula has two other ways to protect itself from predators. First of all, it can rub its legs together making the hairs make a hissing sound that can be heard 15 feet (4.6 m) away. If this doesn’t deter predators, and the spider doesn’t want to or can’t use its venom, it has another defense. It can us its legs to flick hairs from its abdomen. These hairs, when they come in contact with the attacker’s skin, cause severe irritation. If all of these defense methods fail, before biting, the spider can rear up on its back legs displaying its large fangs.

Mating, eggs, and young

These spiders are generally solitary, except during breeding season. Not much is known about the mating habits of this animal. After mating, the female lays from 50 to 150 eggs in a large silk sac. The sac is aggressively guarded by the female, and sometimes she will put some of her irritating hairs on the sac. If she for some reason dies before the eggs hatch, the hairs will help deter predators. They also help ward off parasitic flies that are too small for the adult spider to sense, but are large enough to do damage to the eggs. While the eggs are developing, the female does not eat.
About one to two months after they are laid, the eggs hatch inside a burrow that the female enlarged prior to laying the eggs. The young stay in their mother’s burrow until their first molt. It takes about two to three years for the average Goliath bird-eating tarantula to reach adulthood. Females can live for up to 20 years, but males only live for 3-6 years.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

800px-Europaeischer_Hecht

Sources:

Photo Credits:

  • Goliath bird-eating spider – Sheri
  • Goliath bird-eating spider size comparison – Snakecollector
  • Mystery animal – Public Domain
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