Published: Sun, March 03, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

Gargantuan tarantula drags opossum along rainforest floor

Gargantuan tarantula drags opossum along rainforest floor

In footage sure to give arachnophobes nightmares, the opossum is shown to still be alive as the tarantula pulls it away.

Rabosky, an associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of MI, published a paper along with his team of researchers late last month in the peer-reviewed journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.

"This is an under-appreciated source of mortality among vertebrates", said evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky.

For small animals in the tropics, spiders and their arthropod cousins are responsible for "a surprising amount of death", scientists recently discovered.

While walking through the forest at night, doctoral candidate Michael Grundler and two other students "heard some scrabbling in the leaf litter". "We looked over and we saw the tarantula on top of the opossum, and we just sort of sat and watched that observation until the tarantula got exhausted of us and walked away".

When the mammal stopped struggling, the tarantula dragged it away out of sight (you can see the encounter at 0:11 in the video below).

Like most of the keep-you-up-at-night images, video of the dinner-plate-sized tarantula dragging the softball-size mouse opossum was captured during one of the team's nighttime surveys.

The researcher noted that later on, an opossum expert at the American Museum of Natural History told them that they were the first to document a mygalomorph, a class that includes tarantulas, preying on an opossum.

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A new study has found that invertebrates like spiders and centipedes eat an unexpectedly large number of vertebrates like frogs, snakes, and even a small opossum, in the Amazon.

Grundler said in the statement that, at the time, he and the other researchers were "pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing".

A wandering spider (Ctenidae) preys on a subadult Cercosaura eigenmanni lizard in the Amazon rainforest.

"During their night surveys, team members walk slowly through the forest with flashlights and headlamps, in single file, scanning the forest and listening intently", the release said.

"We knew we were witnessing something pretty special, but we weren't aware it was the first observation until after the fact".

Though such behaviours have been recorded before, the study provides more data about just how many vertebrates fall victim to small predators, particularly spiders.

Arachnologist Rick West said tarantulas typically prey on frogs, but added: "They are opportunistic feeders and they'll take whatever they can subdue".

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