In big news from the field of insect research, entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently captured an extremely rare Goliath spider during a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana. The formal scientific name of the gargantuan eight-legged insect is South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi).
Statement from researcher
“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an academic and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, in describing his initial nocturnal encounter with the giant spider.
The size of the birdeater spider is evident from the sound it makes when moving. “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,” Naskrecki wrote on his blog, but “not as loud.”
More on the Goliath spider
The South American Goliath birdeater is the world’s largest spider, according to most sources, including the Guinness Book of World Records. The leg span of the colossal spider can reach up to a foot, or about the size of “a child’s forearm,” with a body the size of “a large fist,” Naskrecki told Live Science in an interview. Moreover, the spider can weigh more than 6 oz. — about as much as a young puppy, he noted in his blog post.
Other sources argue that the giant huntsman spider, which has a larger leg span than the birdeater, is actually the largest spider. However, given the huntsman spider is much more delicate than the massive birdeater, comparing the two is “like comparing a giraffe to an elephant,” Naskrecki said.
Dangerous defense mechanisms
When Naskrecki first got close to the spider in the rainforest, it began to rub its hind legs against its abdomen. While he thought the behavior was “cute” at first, he soon realized the spider was sending out a cloud of hairs with tiny barbs attached. If these hairs get in the eyes or other mucous membranes, they are very painful, itchy and difficult to remove
The Goliath spider also has pair of 2-inch-long fangs. The spider’s bite is poisonous, but it’s not fatal to humans. Nonetheless, it would still be extremely painful, Naskrecki noted, “like driving a nail through your hand.”
The huge eight-legged beast has one additional defense mechanism. The hairs on the front of the spider have tiny hooks and barbs that make a noticeable hissing sound when they rub against each other, a dangerous sound that might discourage larger predators
However, despite all these defense mechanisms, the Goliath spider isn’t a threat to human beings. Even if it bites you, “a chicken can probably do more damage,” Naskrecki explained.