Tag Archives: spiders

World’s Largest Spider Found – Ack!

Goliath encounter: Puppy-sized spider surprises scientist in rainforest


The South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Its legs can reach up to one foot and it can weight up to 6 oz.. (Piotr Naskrecki)

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Known as the South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), the colossal arachnid is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Itsleg span can reach up to a foot (30 centimeters), or about the size of “a child’s forearm,” with a body the size of “a large fist,” Naskrecki told Live Science. And the spider can weigh more than 6 oz., about as much as a young puppy, the scientist wrote on his blog. [See Photos of the Goliath Birdeater Spider]

Some sources say the giant huntsman spider, which has a larger leg span, is bigger than the birdeater. But the huntsman is much more delicate than the hefty birdeater comparing the two would be “like comparing a giraffe to an elephant,” Naskrecki said.

The birdeater’s enormity is evident from the sounds it makes. “Its feet have hardened tips and claws that produce a very distinct, clicking sound, not unlike that of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground,” he wrote, but “not as loud.”

Prickly hairs and 2-inch fangs

When Naskrecki approached the imposing creature in the rainforest, it would rub its hind legs against its abdomen. At first, the scientist thought the behavior was “cute,” he said, but then he realized the spider was sending out a cloud of hairs with microscopic barbs on them. When these hairs get in the eyes or other mucous membranes, they are “extremely painful and itchy,” and can stay there for days, he said. [Creepy-Crawly Gallery: See Spooky Photos of Spiders]

But its prickly hairs aren’t the birdeater’s only line of defense; it also sports a pair of 2-inch-long  fangs. Although the spider’s bite is venomous, it’s not deadly to humans. But it would still be extremely painful, “like driving a nail through your hand,” Naskrecki said.

And the eight-legged beast has a third defense mechanism up its hairy sleeve. The hairs on the front of the spider’s body have tiny hooks and barbs that make a hissing sound when they rub against each other, “sort of like pulling Velcro apart,” Naskrecki said.

Yet despite all that, the spider doesn’t pose a threat to humans. Even if it bites you, “a chicken can probably do more damage,” Naskrecki said.

Bird eater or mostly harmless?

Despite its name, the birdeater doesn’t usually eat birds, although it is certainly capable of killing small mammals. “They will essentially attack anything that they encounter,” Naskrecki said.

The spider hunts in leaf litter on the ground at night, so the chances of it encountering a bird are very small, he said. However, if it found a nest, it could easily kill the parents and the chicks, he said, adding that the spider species has also been known to puncture and drink bird eggs.

The spider will eat frogs and insects, but its main prey is actually earthworms, which come out at night when it’s humid. “Earthworms are very nutritious,” Naskrecki said.

Birdeaters are not very common spiders. “I’ve been working in the tropics in South America for many, many years, and in the last 10 to 15 years, I only ran across the spider three times,” Naskrecki.

After catching the specimen he found in Guyana, which was female, Naskrecki took her back to his lab to study. She’s now deposited in a museum.


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Ancient 4-eyed, mega-clawed creature had spider brain

Ancient 4-eyed, mega-clawed creature had spider brain

By Denise Chow

Published October 17, 2013

  • mega-claw creature.jpg

    A close-up of the head region of the Alalcomenaeus fossil specimen with the superimposed colors of a microscopy technique revealing the distribution of chemical elements in the fossil. Copper shows up as blue, iron as magenta and the CT scans as green. The coincidence of iron and CT denote nervous system. The creature boasted two pairs of eyes (ball-shaped structures at the top). (N. STRAUSFELD/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA)

  • fossil-nervous-system

    This illustration shows the nervous systems of the Alalcomenaeus fossil (left), a larval horseshoe crab (middle) and a scorpion (right). Diagnostic features that reveal the evolutionary relationships among these animals include the forward posi (N. STRAUSFELD/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA)

The discovery of a fossilized brain in the preserved remains of an extinct “mega-clawed” creature has revealed an ancient nervous system that is remarkably similar to that of modern-day spiders and scorpions, according to a new study.

The fossilized Alalcomenaeus is a type of arthropod known as a megacheiran (Greek for “large claws”) that lived approximately 520 million years ago, during a period known as the Lower Cambrian. The creature was unearthed in the fossil-rich Chengjiang formation in southwest China.

Researchers studied the fossilized brain, the earliest known complete nervous system, and found similarities between the extinct creature’s nervous system and the nervous systems of several modern arthropods, which suggest they may be ancestrally related. [Photos of Clawed Arthropod & Other Strange Cambrian Creatures]

The arthropod family
Living arthropods are commonly separated into two major groups: chelicerates, which include spiders, horseshoe crabs and scorpions, and a group that includes insects, crustaceans and millipedes. The new findings shed light on the evolutionary processes that may have given rise to modern arthropods, and also provide clues about where these extinct mega-clawed creatures fit in the tree of life.

“We now know that the megacheirans had central nervous systems very similar to today’s horseshoe crabs and scorpions,” senior author Nicholas Strausfeld, a professor in the department of neuroscience at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a statement. “This means the ancestors of spiders and their kin lived side by side with the ancestors of crustaceans in the Lower Cambrian.”

The newly identified creature measures a little over an inch long (3 centimeters), and has a segmented body with about a dozen pairs of attached limbs that enabled it to swim or crawl.

“Up front, it has a long pair of appendages that have scissorlike components basically an elbow with scissors on the end,” Strausfeld told LiveScience. “These are really weird appendages, and there has been a long debate about what they are and what they correspond to in modern animals.”

Previously, researchers suggested megacheirans were related to chelicerates, since the extinct creature’s scissorlike claws and the fangs of spiders and scorpions have similar structures, said Greg Edgecombe, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, England.

“They both have an ‘elbow joint’ in the same place, and they both have a similar arrangement of a fixed and movable finger at the tip,” Edgecombe told LiveScience. “Because of these similarities, one of the main theories for what ‘great appendage arthropods’ are is that they were related to chelicerates. Thus, our findings from the nervous system gave an injection of new data to support an existing theory.”

Fossilized brain images
The researchers used CT scans to make 3D reconstructions of features of the fossilized nervous system. The scientists also used laser-scanning technology to map the distribution of chemical elements, such as iron and copper, in the specimen in order to outline different neural structures.

Though finding a well-preserved ancient nervous system is rare, the new study highlights the potential for similar discoveries, the researchers said.

“Finding ancient preservation of neural tissue allows us to analyzeextinct animals using the same tools we use for living animals,” Edgecombe said. “It suggests there should be more examples out there.”

About a year ago, Edgecombe and his colleagues found a different fossilized brain that revealed unexpected similarity to the brains of modern crustaceans.

“Our new find is exciting because it shows that mandibulates (to which crustaceans belong) and chelicerates were already present as two distinct evolutionary trajectories 520 million years ago, which means their common ancestor must have existed much deeper in time,” Strausfeld said in a statement. “We expect to find fossils of animals that have persisted from more ancient times, and I’m hopeful we will one day find the ancestral type of both the mandibulate and chelicerate nervous system ground patterns. They had to come from somewhere. Now the search is on.”

The detailed findings of the study were published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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More Real Monsters

This is an ongoing post that has proven popular.  You can type in “real monsters” in the Search box on the home page to find earlier posts.  I know monster is a relative term…


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Real Life Monsters!

That’s right, Monsters DO exist!  I have listed some pictures below, all of which in my opinion are REAL monsters, living in our world today.  Sleep well tonight…bwahahahaha!

This is a 24 foot crocodile that was killing off African villagers.  The Army had to come in and kill this monster.  A 21 footer was killing villagers in the Phillipines, which they caught, and actually released into the wild.  My own opinion – once a croc reaches over 20 feet and has tasted humans – don’t let them go.

This is some kind of weird thing that lives in the ocean.  All I know is if I saw one while swimming, I would freak out.

Not sure I would hold this bad boy spider crab like that, even if it WAS dead.  Spiders and crabs tend to creep me out anyway, and this thing is just too big for comfort.

That is a giant coconut crab.  Again, if I was taking out the trash and saw that thing, I would run off screaming and call animal control.  It looks more alien than natural creature in my opinion.

Giant Isopods are armed cockroaches that crawl along the bottom of the ocean eating dead whales, dolphins, etc.  They shred them with their claws on eat them.  Kind of a four foot long sea cockroach on steroids.  My own theory – alien scouts, waiting for the mother ship to arrive with more of them to take over the world.  Time to call the Sea Orkin Man.

Enough Calamari to feed all the Italians for a month.  Giant Squid!  Brings HP Lovecrafts’ Call Of Cthulhu to life for me.

That is a giant version of the common earwig.  It’s amazing how something you would just normally squash without a thought causes a bit more cautionary behavior whenever it is jumbo dimensions!  Also, no matter how disgusting the bug, someone is willing to hold it, and reality contestants will eat it for a chance of 15 minutes of fame.

This tiny ocean dwelling creature, the hydrothermal worm, was captured on an electron microscope. It is magnified 525 times!  Thank God it is not that size in the wild.

Don’t be fooled by its tiny size, its got the will and the stuff to rip you to bones.  This particular cannibal lurks in the oceans at depths greater than 4 miles and has diamond-sharp teeth to cut through steel thread.

Another giant squid I believe, but nice and red.  Maybe with the blood of its victims?

The Great White Shark, nature’s best killing machine.  What list would be complete without it, especially with Jaws and its sequels.  Are we on what, Jaws 80 now?

Yes, I know it is just a mole, but up close it looks like some freaky sci-fi monster.  The big open mouth, the huge claws.  Even at its relatively small size, I wouldn’t want to get near one.  Too creepy…

And finally, the worst monster of all…

Starbucks!  They have spread over the map like locusts, everywhere they go they addict people to caffeine in hundreds of yummy flavors.  The real horror is when you realize you are paying $5 for 20 cents worth of water and ingredients – but you can’t stop – you don’t even WANT to stop!  It’s worse than Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  At least in that film, people tried to avoid the pods, not so with Starbucks…  People line up around the block for their Venti Caramel Macchiatos and their Lattes with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.  People behind on their rent and in real fear of eviction can still be seen wandering into their barrista, needing a fix, somehow scrounging up the money to fulfill their need, throwing basics like housing to the wind…


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