Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is a common fear that many people experience. It’s no wonder why, as spiders come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them can be incredibly intimidating.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Goliath birdeater spider, the largest spider in the world by mass and size. The thought of encountering a spider the size of a dinner plate can send shivers down anyone’s spine.
But fear not; we’re here to provide you with some fascinating facts about this incredible creature. From its physical characteristics to its hunting tactics, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the Goliath birdeater spider.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn more about one of the most fascinating and frightening creatures in the world.
Goliath Birdeater/Theraphosa Blondi – The Biggest Spider In The World
The Goliath birdeater, also known as Theraphosa Blondi, is a member of the tarantula family and holds the title of the world’s largest spider.
It’s not just its weird scientific name that makes it fascinating, though! This hairy spider weighs a whopping 6 ounces and measures up to 5 inches in body length and 12 inches in leg span.
Despite its name, this massive spider doesn’t actually eat birds very often.
In fact, it was given its name because of an 18th-century carving that depicted a tarantula from the same family feeding on a hummingbird, suggesting that it could even eat a whole bird!
Pretty incredible, right?
What does the Goliath birdeater Look Like?
In addition to its massive size, the Goliath birdeater has some other remarkable features that make it stand out.
Covered in variegated hairs of dark and light brown hair and golden hues, this spider has eight legs and no antennae like many other spiders.
Its body is divided into two parts – the combined head and neck and the abdomen.
Despite having eight eyes, the goliath birdeater has weak eyesight and relies mainly on its hairy body to sense movements and vibrations in its environment.
It also has two hairy projections on either side of its head called pedipalps, as well as two-inch-long fangs, which are crucial for its hunting and feeding habits.
The pedipalps help the spider grab its prey, while the venomous fangs inject deadly venom to immobilize the victim.
Where Does This Hairy Creature Live and How?
If you want to avoid encountering a goliath birdeater spider, it’s essential to know where these hairy creatures live and hunt. After all, you don’t want to come face to face with these monstrous creatures, do you?
Unlike most spiders that build intricate silk webs, goliath birdeaters behave differently. They inhabit swampy or marshy areas in the rainforests of northern South America, such as the Amazon.
These spiders love to reside in deep, hidden excavations that they either dig themselves or already exist under a log or rock.
You can find these giant spiders in the rainforests of Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela.
Being nocturnal, they usually spend their days hiding in their burrows, only emerging at night to hunt and feed. So, if you’re exploring these rainforests, keep a close eye on where you’re stepping, especially at night!
What are Some of its Defense Mechanisms?
You might wonder why a scary creature like the goliath birdeater would need to defend itself when no one would dare approach it.
However, these spiders are a treat for some mammals and even humans.
Although the bird-eating tarantulas are not in danger in the wild, they’re very vulnerable during the moulting process when their bodies are delicate, shed skin and cannot move correctly.
During this time, even smaller insects can kill these spiders quickly.
Therefore, the goliath birdeater incorporates several interesting biological phenomena that make it a fascinating species to study.
Here are the defense mechanisms that deter potential predators:
The term “stridulation” refers to the sound created when two surfaces rub against each other.
This process is used by various animals, such as crickets that use it to attract their mates. However, for tarantulas, including the bird-eating spider, stridulation serves a different purpose, namely, self-defense.
Since the bird-eating spider is covered in hairs, it can use the hairs around its mouth to create a hissing sound, which is a form of stridulation. The spider creates this sound to deter potential threats, such as large animals that might step on it or predators.
Additionally, the spider has another defense mechanism, which involves releasing stinging hairs from its abdomen to attack potential threats.
While predators can adapt to these strategies, they generally tend to avoid or exercise caution before attacking a bird-eating spider.
2. Venomous Sting
In addition to stridulation, the goliath birdeater has another brutal defense mechanism up its sleeve.
If threatened, the spider will first rear up on its hind legs in an intimidating posture. If the predator persists, the spider will strike back with its two fangs, which contain venom glands capable of killing smaller mammals and causing swelling and irritation in larger ones.
However, the spider prefers to avoid using this mechanism unless necessary since venom production is a painful and time-consuming process.
Therefore, it’s best to stay on the good side of these spooky creatures and avoid any potential harm.
What Do They Eat?
Contrary to what their name suggests, bird-eating spiders do not primarily feed on birds!
Although these massive arachnids are big enough to prey on birds, they’re not picky eaters and consume a wide range of animals, such as frogs, lizards, tiny snakes, bats, rats, and insects, and sometimes even bird hatchlings.
How Do They Hunt it Down?
Unlike other spiders that spin webs to trap their prey, these spiders, sadly, have no unique technique for hunting or trapping.
Instead, they act smartly and use the element of surprise to sneak up on their unsuspecting prey at night. They sting their prey with their venomous fangs to paralyze them.
After catching their prey, they bring it to their burrows for a relaxing and peaceful meal.
The most interesting thing is:
They don’t have any teeth to chew their food. Instead, they have the extraordinary ability to release digestive juices onto their prey, dissolving the skin tissues and enabling them to consume the liquefied meal.
Stages of Reproduction
The birdeater spider’s reproduction process can be divided into three main stages.
1. Stage 1- Moulting
The process of moulting involves the shedding of the outer layer of skin, known as the exoskeleton.
This process is necessary for spiders to grow, as their exoskeleton does not expand with their body size. During moulting, the old exoskeleton splits, and the spider wriggles out of it, leaving behind a thin and soft new exoskeleton.
The spider will then pump body fluids into the new exoskeleton, causing it to expand and harden. The moulting process can take several hours to complete and leaves the spider vulnerable to predators and other threats.
2. Stage 2 – Finding The Mate
Male birdeaters go to great lengths to find a mate. They can detect the presence of females by following their scent, which is released by special glands in the female’s body.
Once a male has located a female, he will approach her carefully, tapping his legs on the ground to create a vibration that signals his intentions. If the female is receptive, she will allow the male to approach, and they will mate.
3. Stage 3 – Depositing The Eggs
After mating, the female will lay her eggs in a silk cocoon, which she will then guard and protect until they hatch. The number of eggs laid can vary, with some females producing as few as 50 eggs and others laying up to 200. The female will keep the egg sac with her, carrying it around or hiding it in her burrow, and will continue to protect it until the spiderlings hatch.
4. Stage 4 – Guarding The Eggs
Once the eggs are laid, the female will use her stinging hairs to create a protective barrier around the egg sac, which will deter predators from attacking. She will also periodically check on the eggs to ensure that they are healthy and developing properly.
5. Stage 5 – Spiderling Development
Once the spiderlings hatch, they will stay in the egg sac for several weeks, living off of the yolk sac until they are strong enough to venture out on their own. They will then molt several times before reaching maturity, which can take anywhere from two to three years.
During this time, they will feed on a variety of insects and other small animals, gradually growing larger and stronger until they are capable of reproducing themselves.
Is it a Good Idea To Keep the Goliath Birdeater as a Pet?
It is important to note that keeping a goliath birdeater as a pet is not recommended due to various reasons. Firstly, they are not easy to take care of, and their size can be challenging to manage.
Secondly, their venomous bite can cause harm to humans, especially those who are allergic to spider venom.
Lastly, they won’t have a long lifespan in captivity. The males only live for three to six years because they die after they mate. Females, on the other hand, live much longer, with a lifespan of ten to fifteen years; some even survive up to twenty-five years.
Furthermore, it is essential to understand that all living creatures, including the goliath birdeater, play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of their habitat. They help in controlling the population of insects, rodents, and other small animals, which, in turn, impacts the food chain of their ecosystem.
Therefore, instead of keeping them as pets, it is better to appreciate these magnificent creatures from a safe distance and let them live freely in their natural habitat.