Nightmare fuel: Researchers record giant tarantula eating an opossum

A morbid film and images of the encounter were captured by a team of University of MI researchers, who documented 15 rare and disturbing predator-prey interactions in the Amazon rainforest.

The fact that spiders have varied diets isn't surprising, per ScienceAlert.

The Amazon rainforest is home to many terrifying creatures, not the least of which are huge tarantulas the size of dinner plates.

A fishing spider (genus Thaumasia) preying on a tadpole in a pond.

"This is an underappreciated source of mortality among vertebrates", University of MI evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky said in a press release. "A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes", he said.

According to von May, there are about 85 species of amphibians, mostly frogs and toads, and about 90 species of reptiles in the study site.

Most of the expeditions in the forest were at night, when the predators are more active.

Considering this diversity and the sheer number of invertebrates in the Amazon, the potential for interactions between species is staggering.

The resulting paper includes encounters from 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2017.

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"The most common interaction we see is spiders eating other invertebrate prey such as crickets and moths", von May said. The team heard some sounds in the leaf litter and went to check it out.

"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Michael Grundler, a Ph.D. student at U of M and contributing author, said in a statement.

"When they looked, they saw the tarantula moving away with the opossum, which was still kicking weakly", he said.

Video of a large tarantula dragging off an opossum is a little gruesome, but it also provides new insight into the lives of animals in the Amazon rainforest.

In footage released by the University of MI, the huge spider-estimated to be around the size of a dinner plate-can be seen on top of the young mouse opossum, which was about the size of a softball.

Larson, with far steelier nerves than most people, described all this as "new and exciting".

American scientists have for the first time captured vision of a giant tarantula spider preying on an opossum in the Amazon rainforest. "But it is a special human bias that leads us to think that this is somehow freakier than many other ways of dying: there is nothing pretty about most predation, whether it is coming from lions or peregrine falcons or crocodiles or anything else".

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

The team observed both dotted humming frogs and juvenile tarantulas leaving the same burrow for a night of foraging.

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