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This face-sized tarantula will haunt you

Posted By KATE STANTON, UPI.com   |   April 3, 2013 at 3:08 PM   |   Comments

April 3 (UPI) -- It's hard to imagine why anyone would go looking for giant spiders. But that's what researcher Ranil Nanayakkara and his team of scientists did after villagers in northern Sri Lanka showed them the dead body of a giant spider they had killed.

With the help of a local police inspector named Michael Rajakumar Purajah, researchers scoured the area for more signs of the unusual spider, an arachnid species that belongs to the genus Peocilotheria. They named it Poecilotheria rajaei, in recognition of the inspector's "tireless hours in the field."

According to a report published by the British Tarantula Society, the team found the specimens in tree holes and even in an old doctor's house.

"They are quite rare," Nanayakkara told Wired. "They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings."

The Poecilotheria rajaei feeds primarily on small snakes and birds and has a leg span of up to eight inches across, thought it's not quite the world's largest tarantula.

South America's goliath birdeater tarantula has a 12-inch leg span and can weigh up to half a pound.

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