Do you get startled seeing spiders on Halloween decorations? Then a night walk in the Amazonian jungles of Guyana is certainly not for you.
Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently encountered an eight-legged creepy crawly creature while taking a nighttime stroll through a rain forest in Guyana. Known as the South American Goliath bird-eater, it is about the size of a fist and the leg span of about a foot (almost that of a small child)!
Goliath Bird-eating Spider
On his nighttime walk, Naskrecki turned on his flashlight at the sound of rustling, expecting to see a possum or rat in the forest underbrush. He didn't initially realize what he was seeing - instead of a small furry mammal, it was an enormous puppy-sized spider. The Goliath spider being quire rare, certainly caught the entomologist by surprise.
Goliath bird-eaters can weigh up to six ounces, earning them the title of the largest spider from the Guinness Book of World Records. Though they are called bird-eaters, they do not usually eat birds but hunt for worms, rats and other smaller animals. While size can be intimidating, it can startle a predator by making loud clicking sounds with its front claws when threatened.
All tarantulas including the Goliath, have an interesting way of defending themselves. They have pokey hairs on their abdomen which when threatened, they will shoot them at their predator by rubbing these hairs with their back legs. And should they dig their 2-inch long fangs into you, a human would probably not die, but would probably be sick for days. So better watch out!
Spiders belong to a class of animals know an arachnids. Unlike insects that have 6 legs, arachnids have 8 legs. Some arachnids have either a pair of pincers or fangs. They certainly do not have wings or antennae, but do have a hard exoskeleton. Wondering what other arachnids you may know? Think of mites, scorpions and ticks. You may surprised, there are about 60,000 species of arachnids!
Another cool thing about an arachnid is that they have two body parts. The cephalothorax - where the head and thorax of the an insect are fused together, and the abdomen. All the legs, mouth and sense organs of the arachnid are in the cephalothorax. Arachnids are usually predators. Watched a spider? Notice how they spin webs to catch prey. Scorpions use their stinging tails and pincers to get their food. And if you don't get grossed out, read on... they use their poisonous fangs to inject digestive juices into their prey to dissolve their flesh before sucking it up!
A Future At Risk
Tarantula populations are under pressure from habitat destruction, whether in tropical rainforests or deserts. Many suffer the effects of pesticides used to kill insect pests on which they prey.
Courtesy: LiveScience, Discovery