Amazon rainforest arachnophobe’s nightmare

A tarantula (genus Pamphobeteus) preying on a mouse opossum (genus Marmosops). Photo by Maggie Grundler, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (amphibian-reptile-conservation.org).

As University of Michigan researchers themselves said, “this is the stuff of nightmares.”

According to a news release, a University of Michigan-led team of biologists has documented 15 “rare and disturbing” predator prey interactions in the Amazon rainforest, including of a tarantula the size of a dinner plate dragging a young opossum across the forest floor.

Images of the occurrence were published in a “New Amphibian & Reptile Conservation journal” article titled “Ecological interactions between arthropods and small vertebrates in a lowl and Amazon rainforest.” It details instances of arthropod predators like spiders, centipedes and a giant water bug preying on frogs, tadpoles, lizards and snakes.

While spiders are among the most diverse predators in the tropics, knowledge of such interactions has been limited.

On one of the team’s night surveys, the news release states they “We heard some scrabbling in the leaf litter. We looked over and we saw a large tarantula on top of an opossum,” said Michael Grundler, a co-author of the paper. “The opossum had already been grasped by the tarantula and was still struggling weakly at that point, but after about 30 seconds it stopped kicking.”

The opossum was about the size of a softball. One team member was able to get video on a cell phone, capturing the “first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider preying an opossum.”

“We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn’t really believe what we were seeing,” Grundler said. “We knew we were witnessing something pretty special, but we weren’t aware that it was the first observation until after the fact.”

With information from University of Michigan.

 

The Yucatan Times
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