Largest spiders in the world

 

Goliath bird eating tarantula

Credit: © Louiseefer – Fotolia.com

 

The biggest tarantula of them all

The word’s largest and heaviest spiders are tarantulas and the biggest of all is the Goliath bird eating tarantula which can be found in the coastal forests of Venezuela and Guya.

Share

 

How big can it get?

The leg span of the goliath bird-eating tarantula can reach nearly a foot across – more than enough to to cover your dinner plate or, worse still, your face! It maybe that the smaller bodied Australian Huntsman spider has an even larger leg span – but either way they’re both enormous.

 

What does it eat?

Although known for stealing small birds from nests (hence its name), birds are not this enormous spider’s main diet for a simple reason: it usually can’t catch them. Regular lunch consists of insects, frogs, small snakes lizards, rodents and even bats.

 

How does it hunt?

It doesn’t weave webs. Instead it sneaks up and pounces on its unsuspecting victim. Once caught, the spider uses its large fangs, which can be 2.5 cm long, to inject a powerful venom that paralyses and liquefies its helpless prey. Once the insides are sufficiently liquefied, the spider sucks its victim dry – leaving nothing but an empty husk.

 

How dangerous?

A bite from a tarantula is not much worse than a sting from a wasp. However if threatened, this tarantula can get nasty by flicking hairs from its abdomen in the direction of its attacker. The tiny hairs have barbs and can be extremely irritating to the skin.  A far more aggressive and deadly eight-legged brute is the Brazilian wandering spider.

 

Share

 

How many are left?

The goliath bird-eating tarantula is a reclusive spider by nature that is found mainly in tropical South America. Unfortunately, due  to human encroachment on its habitat it is now an endangered species.

 

Anything else?

While many people fear these spiders, others such as the Piaroa people of Venezuela consider the Goliath bird-eating tarantula a most delicious delicacy. They serve them roasted with their fangs on the side as toothpicks.

 

Fried tarantula

Fried tarantula

 

More great posts on animal size below!

 

Holy guacamole! I really want to...

Largest snake in Africa – African rock python

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Size | 0 comments

African rock python

African rock python photo: hannes.steyn

 

Large African giant

The largest snake to inhabit the African continent is the African Rock Python which can be found in Sub-Saharan countries. This hulking mass of reptile is also the third largest snake in the world.

 

How big can it get?

These African giants can reach lengths greater than 6 metres (20 feet), enough to give even the biggest of mammals a fright.

 

What does it eat?

As well as snacking on smallish mammals and birds, the African rock python is fond of antelopes and other larger animals. It’s not afraid of choosing crocodile from the menu either.

 

How does it hunt?

Like most constrictors, this snake is an ambush predator, preferring to lay in wait for an unsuspecting dinner. It clamps onto its prey with formidable teeth, coils its body around its victim, and then squeezes. A meal is eaten whole with backward-facing teeth assisting swallowing.

 

How dangerous is it?

Often portrayed as an aggressive snake, this species only attacks when provoked, making it relatively safe for humans. In 2002 it was reported that a child in South Africa was eaten by an African rock python, the first recording of such an incident.

 

How many are left?

The species is considered common and stable. Continued habitat reduction could lead to diminishing numbers though.

 

Anything else?

A number of features set the African rock python apart from other serpents. Firstly, it features two functioning lungs instead of the typical one. Secondly, a pair of pelvic spurs which may be remnants of hind limbs are also visible. Now who said snakes didn’t have legs?


 

The heaviest snake in the world – Green anaconda

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Size | 0 comments

Share

 

Big and heavy

The world’s heaviest snake is the green anaconda which can be found in the rainforests, swamps and marshes of South America. Although it is widely recognised that the articulated python can grow longer, the green anaconda can stake claim to the title of largest snake due to its girth and weight.

 

How big can it get?

In 1944 it was reported that a green anaconda exceeding 11 metres (37 feet) had been shot at the border of Venezuela and Colombia. Like many such reports, the information was a little sketchy and was never verified – the snake allegedly slithered away before being weighed. In 2009 though, a substantiated report told of a 5.5 metre green anaconda in Surinam, a small South American country. Whilst not as big, this is still considered a large snake.

 

What does it eat?

The largest of the anaconda family likes nothing better than a banquet of Amazonian treats including turtles, wild pigs, caiman and capybara.

 

How does it hunt?

This huge reptilian beast struggles to carry its own weight on land so most of its hunting is done from the waters of swamps and slow-moving streams. In this environment it can patiently ambush the meat feast above, particularly as high eyes and nasal openings allow it to almost completely submerge. As with other constrictor snakes it coils around and squeezes the life out of the hapless prey before swallowing it whole. A good meal can take weeks, or even months to digest.

 

How dangerous is it?

Human interaction with anacondas is sparse due to its preference for the swamps. Still, this gargantuan serpent could easily crush a human if circumstances called for it.

 

How many are left?

Anaconda numbers, whilst difficult to document, are fairly stable. Continued encroachment into the rainforests though may prove problematic.

 

Anything else?

When it comes to mating, a female anaconda will form a ball with a number of males. This ball will stay entwined for up to four weeks before the female leaves to incubate her offspring.

 

 

Longest snake in the world – Reticulated python

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Size | 0 comments

Share

 

Big and very, very long

The longest snake in the world is the reticulated python which can be found in the humid rainforests and woodlands of Southeast Asia.

 

How big can it get?

The longest reticulated python currently in captivity is Medusa who is just over 8 metres (25 feet) in length. In 2004 claims were made that a 14 metre python had been found in the Philippines. Like many big snake claims this was exaggerated with the serpent actually measuring a far less staggering 7 metres. Meanwhile hatchling snakes measure in at just over half a metre, making them more than big enough to wrap around the waist of your average supermodel.

 

What does it eat?

Whatever it can get its jaws around, and with an elastic-like jaw – which opens to a 150 degree angle – that’s a lot of things. Its main diet includes mammals such as pigs and deer, as well as the occasional bird, although it is capable of feasting on much larger animals.

 

How does it hunt?

It is an ambush hunter that ordinarily operates at night. The snake coils up and lies in wait, only striking when an animal comes close enough. Its powerful jaws clamp down whilst it wraps its muscular body around the prey, squeezing (constricting) its life out.

 

How dangerous is it?

Stories of these pythons eating humans are often embellished, although some cases, usually involving children, have been recorded. Like most snakes, they’re unlikely to attack unless provoked, and many people choose to keep them as pets.

 

How many are left?

The reticulated python is common in Southeast Asia and not considered at risk. Deforestation though continues to impact their natural habitat.

 

Anything else?

The term reticulated refers to the net-like pattern that adorns the snake’s skin, which is perfect for camouflaging in the rainforest.