Ugh! Video shows giant tarantula preying on opossum

A tarantula preying on a mouse opossum

A tarantula preying on a mouse opossum

Insects? Yeah, that's true.

It's not surprising that spiders have varied diets. In one instance, a centipede was consuming a juvenile snake while it was still alive (the scientists humanely euthanized the snake after the centipede abandoned it).

"Invertebrates preying on vertebrates is common, but it's generally not assumed to be an important source of mortality for amphibians and reptiles", said von May, a biologist at the University of MI.

The article titled "Ecological interactions between arthropods and small vertebrates in a lowland Amazon rainforest" documents 15 cases of arthropods - mainly large spiders and centipedes - preying on vertebrates like small frogs, snakes and lizards.

For several years, the team has studied reptiles and amphibians in the Amazon rainforest at the foot of the Andes.

In the research area in Peru, there are at least 85 species of amphibians and 90 species of reptiles, von May says.

What happened: Scientists from the University of MI were in the Peruvian Amazon observing predator-prey interactions when they heard scratching sounds on the ground.

Researchers have been studying these interactions for about 10 years, and their study includes observations from 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2017.

Spiders are extremely diverse predators and they are known to eat creatures from all the major vertebrate groups, including birds, mammals, reptiles and fish.

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But one occasion really stands out.

Among their finds is a one-of-a-kind event when they chanced upon a large tarantula preying on a young mouse opossum.

"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.

The gruesome pick of the troubling lot is a video that shows a spider that's "bigger than a dinner plate" munching on an opossum. In video of the encounter, the tarantula is seen slowly dragging away its victim.

After reviewing the footage, an expert at the American Museum of Natural History confirmed it was the first documentation of a spider preying on an opossum.

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

Arachnologist Rick West said tarantulas typically prey on frogs, but added: "They are opportunistic feeders and they'll take whatever they can subdue". Upon looking toward the noise, the team was greeted by the sight of a dinner plate tarantula carrying a baby possum.

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

"Tarantula predation on vertebrates is not a common thing, but it does happen".

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