Tarantula eats snake in first documented case in nature

By Ben Hooper   |   Jan. 10, 2017 at 2:12 PM
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SANTA MARIA, Brazil, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Researchers in Brazil detailed the first documented case of a tarantula found killing and eating a snake in the wild.

A study published in the journal Herpetology Notes details what Leandro Malta Borges, a graduate student in biology at Brazil's Federal University of Santa Maria, and his colleagues found when they went searching for tarantulas in the Serra do Cavera region on Oct. 23, 2015.

The researchers said they flipped a rock to discover an adult female tarantula -- Grammostola quirogai -- feeding on the vanquished corpse of a 12-inch Almaden ground snake.

"Predation of such a large snake in relation to the size of the spider was extremely surprising to us," Borges told LiveScience.

The researchers said other Grammostola tarantulas, close cousins of the spider found feeding on the snake, have been induced to eat snakes in captivity, but the behavior had never before been documented in the wild.

"To the best of our knowledge, we present here the first documented case involving the predation of a snake by an individual of the Theraphosidae family in nature," the researchers wrote.

Borges said other types of spiders have been known to kill and eat snakes.

"There are other records of spiders preying on snakes, such as the famous black widow, which has a strong toxin and, besides, rely on the web for capturing," Borges said.

One such incident was caught on camera by Kurrajong Heights, Australia, resident Sabrina Besselsen, who posted a video to Facebook showing a redback spider killing a red-bellied black snake that got caught in its web.

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