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Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula

Picture a 12-inch pizza. Are you the cheese-and-pepperoni type? Spinach and mushrooms? How about topped with a huge brown, furry spider? Because that’s how big the goliath bird-eating tarantula is—enough to span a 12-inch dinner plate. See for yourself in Amazon Rising.

Its name is a slight misnomer. The goliath is one of the two biggest spiders in the world, but it’s not primarily a bird eater. It generally hunts nothing larger than itself, including insects, frogs, rodents and other ground-bound creatures. It burrows in the Amazon rain forests in northern South America (primarily Surinam, Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela), retreating to the trees during the flood season.

A goliath (Theraphosa blondi) comes stocked with an arsenal of weapons for protection and feeding. It can rise up as a menacing gesture. It flicks tiny barbed hairs like a spray of bullets that irritate the skin, eyes and mouth. It will rub its hind legs together to generate a hissing noise that can be heard from 15 feet away. Instead of spinning webs, the goliath builds steely silken walls and trip wires around its burrow, which compensate for the spider’s poor eyesight. Sensory hairs also can detect even the slightest vibrations. Once alerted, the goliath sneaks up on prey and inflicts a deadly bite, then drags its meal to a safe place for eating. The spider injects liquefying juices so it can slurp lunch up like a smoothie.
 
Despite this sprawling spider’s fearsome reputation, its venom is not potent enough to kill humans. Local people roast the goliath as a delicacy, and a chemical in its venom is used to treat strokes, seizures and neurological disorders. Perhaps we should turn some of our apprehension into appreciation.


 

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