Spider eating opossum: Tarantula drags, eats opossum in Amazon rainforest

Spider eating opossum: Tarantula drags, eats opossum in Amazon rainforest”

While spiders typically preyed on other smaller invertebrates like crickets and moths, sometimes they hunt larger creatures like frogs or lizards, said study leader Rudolf von May, whose paper appeared this week in the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.

A tarantula the size of a dinner plate was recorded by scientists as it dragged a young opossum across the leaf-litter of the Amazon jungle.

A team of scientists from the University of MI documented more than a dozen "rare and disturbing predator-prey interactions", including video of the massive spider that preyed upon the small vertebrate.

In footage released by the University of MI, the huge spider-estimated to be around the size of a dinner plate-can be seen on top of the young mouse opossum, which was about the size of a softball. The opossum was still struggling weakly even with the tarantula grasping its neck then, but it eventually stopped kicking after about 30 seconds.

"This is an underappreciated source of mortality among vertebrates", University of MI evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky said in a press release.

Though such behaviours have been recorded before, the study provides more data about just how many vertebrates fall victim to small predators, particularly spiders.

Every interaction was brutal (in its own way), but none was perhaps as vicious as the late-night slaughter of a mouse opossum by a tarantula (theraphosid spider). They watched for about five minutes and were able to document the moment on video, before the spider hauled its prey behind a tree root to enjoy its meal in peace. "To see one taken down by an arthropod was very surprising".

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

According to the university, knowledge of these interactions remains limited.

As the researchers themselves said, "this is the stuff of nightmares".

They noted the opossum - around the size of a fist - was still alive when they spotted it.

He brings a group of researchers to the lowland Amazon rainforest in a remote part of southeastern Peru once or twice a year. "And considering that there are hundreds of invertebrates that potentially prey upon vertebrates, the number of possible interactions between species is huge, and we are highlighting that fact in this paper".

"Tarantula predation on vertebrates is not a common thing, but it does happen". 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.

Later, an opossum expert from the American Museum of Natural History confirmed that the video was the "first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider [tarantula] preying on an opossum".

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