Creepy Critter #2: Goliath Bird-Eating Spider
The name almost says it all, right? Wrong – it’s a good indicator and largely what you’d expect, but this Amazonian arachnid is even creepier than what you’d imagine in your nightmares!
This “new world” tarantula is (arguably) the world’s largest spider (measuring by its legspan and mass), growing to have an 11-inch legspan and weigh over 6 ounces. That’s as big as a dinner plate!
At a size like that, you’d expect this seriously spooky spider to use its inch-long fangs to rip its prey to shreds, right? Well it does something even creepier. The Goliath Bird-Eating Spider sinks its fangs into its victims – usually insects, frogs, or mice – then injects venomous juices into them, turning the animal’s insides into mush that the spider then slurps out.
Don’t let that make you think its bite is safe, because that’s not the case. “You absolutely still don’t want to be bitten by one of them,” says TSA Aquarist Ryan Drum. “A bite from one will induce nausea, cause severe sweating and light-headedness, not to mention hurt really badly.”
…And we haven’t even gotten to its defensive mechanism yet.
This species of spider is especially known for its highly developed and highly effective defensive move called “urticating.” When threatened, the spider will release hair-like bristles from its body, enveloping the perceived threat in a cloud of tiny, almost invisible hairs that are extremely irritating to skin, and can cause real problems if they get into delicate, sensitive mucous membranes around the eyes or mouth, explains Drum.
“Another thing that many will find creepy is that fact that females can lay anywhere from 100 to 200 eggs at a time and, like female Praying Mantises, also sometimes eat the males,” he says.
TSA’s resident Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, Debbie Hairy, will be on display in our Amazon exhibit – come see her tomorrow at Green Halloween!