SALT LAKE CITY — If you’re an arachnophobe, you might want to exit out of your browser or look away for this one.
What happened: Scientists from the University of Michigan were in the Peruvian Amazon observing predator-prey interactions when they heard scratching sounds on the ground.
- What they saw was a dinner plate-sized tarantula dragging a mouse opossum across the ground, according to CNN.
- The encounter, which took place in 2016, was only recently published in the Feb. 28 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
According to scientists who watched the encounter, the spider grabbed the softball-sized opossum by the neck and dragged the animal behind a tree root before eating it, CNN reported.
University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Mike Grundler said, “We’re just walking the trails. We walk along slowly, and we heard scrambling in the leaf litter. We looked over and we saw the tarantula on top of the opossum, and we just sort of sat and watched that observation until the tarantula got tired of us and walked away.”
Scientific significance: Scientists say that the encounter appears to be the first documented case of a tarantula eating an opossum, according to CNN.
“We see big spiders a lot when we’re out at night. When we see them eating something, it’s usually a large katydid or a small frog, so finding a spider eating another mammal is very unexpected,” Grundler said.
The encounter was confirmed as the first on video by an expert from the American Museum of Natural History, according to the University of Michigan’s Michigan News.1 comment on this story
The study location: According to University of Michigan scientists, the lowland Amazon rainforest where they studied is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth.
- Knowledge of predator-prey interactions between spiders there, however, remains somewhat limited given the diversity of prey and arthropod predators.
- Researchers have been studying these interactions for about 10 years, and their study includes observations from 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2017.
For more information about the study, visit the Michigan News website.