Puppy-size spider stuns scientist
Sunday, October 19, 2014, 10:00 PM - Most people jump at the sight of a centipede racing across the living room floor, but imagine having an unexpected run-in with a spider as large as a child's forearm and weighing as much as a puppy?
As an an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, Piotr Naskrecki has seen a lot in his day, but nothing quite like what he ran into while taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana.
On a blog post titled The Sound of Little Hooves in the Night, he says at first he heard rustling -- as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he says he expected to see "a small mammal, a possum, a rat maybe."
"When I turned on the light, I couldn't quite understand what I was seeing," he said.
Upon closer inspection, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.
Known as The South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), the behemoth arachnid is the largest spider in the world, according to Guinness World Records.
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In an interview with Live Science, Naskrecki said the spider's leg span can reach up to a foot (30 cm), or about the size of "a child's forearm," with a body the size of "a large fist". He says Theraphosa blondi spider's could weigh up to 170 g -- "about as much as a young puppy."
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The Goliath birdeater has three lines of defense. Naskrecki says by rubbing its legs against its abdomen, the spider produces a cloud of tiny, barbed hairs that get in the eyes and mucous membranes and cause extreme pain and itching for days. It also has two-inch-long fangs "strong enough to pierce a mouse's skull." And it can make a hissing sound by rubbing its hairs together, which sounds like pulling Velcro apart.
But is it deadly?
"The venom of a birdeater is not deadly to humans but, in combination with massive puncture wounds the fangs were capable of inflicting, it was definitely something to be avoided," Naskrecki noted.
After catching the specimen, Naskrecki took it back to his lab for further study before sending her off to a museum.
For more impressive photos from Naskrecki's spectacular encounter, click here.
Image source: thesmallermajority.com
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