Published: Sat, March 02, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Amazon Spiders And Centipedes Prey On Opossum, Snakes

Amazon Spiders And Centipedes Prey On Opossum, Snakes

A team of biologists and researchers, led by the University of MI, captured the fascinating video footage during a recent trip to Peru to document "rare and disturbing" predator-prey interactions. "[.] Documenting predation by spiders and other arthropods in these ecosystems is essential even if many predaceous arthropods remain undescribed and are mostly classified as morphospecies, because they provide insights into an important source of vertebrate mortality that appears to be less common in extra-tropical communities".

It's something straight out of a horror movie: A giant tarantula - the size of a dinner plate - grabs an opossum and drags it through the Amazon rainforest. The opossum was still struggling weakly even with the tarantula grasping its neck then, but it eventually stopped kicking after about 30 seconds.

Their findings have been published in the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.

These observations suggest that arthropods are "a major source of mortality" for small vertebrates, said study co-author Dan Rabosky, an associate professor of herpetology at UM and a curator at the UM Museum of Zoology.

Most of the expeditions in the forest were at night, when the predators are more active. Grundler describes the spider as being "the size of a dinner plate", just in case you're not freaked out enough already. "When we do surveys at night, some of the spiders we see will have prey, typically other invertebrates like crickets and moths".

The team also collected the bodies of two snakes that succumbed to centipedes, including a venomous coral snake.

And the small-vertebrate menu the scientists observed included at least one opossum.


"In a single night survey, it's fairly common to see between three and five predator-prey interactions", lead study author Rudolf von May, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan (UM), told Live Science in an email.

"We looked over and we saw a large tarantula on top of an opossum", researcher Michael Grundler said.

Researchers captured video and photographs of battles between predators and prey in the rainforest.

Isn't the idea of frogs and tarantulas being BFFs just the most adorable thing? While the tarantula in the genus Pamphobeteus will usually jump at the chance to eat a frog, it allows individuals of one species, the dotted humming frog (Chiasmocleis royi), to share its underground burrow.

"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Grundler says.

American scientists have for the first time captured vision of a giant tarantula spider preying on an opossum in the Amazon rainforest. "We knew we were witnessing something pretty special, but we weren't aware that it was the first observation until after the fact".

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