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Goliath Birdeater Fact File

Appearance

The goliath bird eating spider is the largest arachnid currently known to exist on Earth based on mass or size. Their legspan is the second largest after the giant huntsman.

Their body is covered with dark and light brown coloured hairs. They have 8 legs on their body which consists of two parts. Their third and fourth pair of legs feature a spine. The head and neck are combined to create the cephlathroax and behind this is the large circular abdomen.

On either side of the head are short appendages known as the pedipalps which look like small legs and are used to hold prey. Their long fangs measure 2cm (0.75in) and bend downward under their body. They have eight eyes.

Their body measures 12cm (4.75in) across with the legspan extending out to 28cm (11in). They weigh as much as 170g (6oz).

Diet

Goliath bird eaters are carnivores. They feed on insects, frogs, mice, snakes, lizards, bats and birds. Their diet is compromised of almost any living thing that is smaller than they are.

Before they eat their food they seize it between their pedipalps and inject venom with their fangs. Once the prey is disabled they will drag it to their burrow and the goliath bird eater will liquefy their prey before sucking it dry.

Scientific Name

Theraphosa blondi

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Weight

170g (6oz)

Length

12cm (4.75in)

Lifespan

Female 20 years

Male 6 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Range

Goliath bird eaters are native to the North East portion of South America. Here they live in Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela.

Habitat

They make their home in marshy swamps, and wetlands regions of the upland forest portion of rainforests.

Their home is a burrow which is dug under a rock or tree root. This is lined with the silk that the spiders produce.

Reproduction

Males are able to grab their mate using a hook on the underside of their front leg which locks in to the female’s fangs. This hold’s her still and steadies him while they mate.

Mating takes place soon after a female molts. Following a successful mating she will create a web using her silk that is where she will deposit 100-200 eggs. These are fertilized as they leave the body. Once they leave the body she will wrap them in to a ball which is the size of a tennis ball and this is then left in her burrow. Females will cover this ball with urticating hairs to protect them.

She guards the egg sac fiercely till it hatches. Typically this takes 6-8 weeks. They will remain in her nest burrow until their first molt at which point they will move out and make their own home.

Once they leave the egg sac spiderlings will grow by molting. This involves them losing their old skin and they then increase the body size before the new skin hardens. Five to six molts will take place in the first year.

It takes two to three years to reach maturity.

A male dies soon after they complete their first mating.

goliath birdeater

Behaviour

Most of their activity takes place at night.

They are primarily solitary spending their time alone and coming together just to mate.

Their eyesight is weak and they find their way around primarily using the hairs on their legs which are highly sensitive.

Using the hairs on their legs they can create a hissing noise which can be heard as much as 4.6m (15ft). This noise is called stridulation.

Predators and Threats

Goliath bird eating tarantulas have many methods of defense against their predators. These predators may include coatis, snakes and wasps.

During molting they are particularly vulnerable to predators and they are highly susceptible to attack at this time.

Their venom is effective against prey but typically only feels like a wasp sting to humans.

When threatened the goliath birdeater has hairs that they can flick off their abdomen using their hind leg and in to the attacker. These hairs irritate the threat. They are known as urticating hairs. In addition to this they will raise up their front legs to expose the fangs.

When they aim to defend themselves they will bite but this is typically a dry bite where they don’t inject venom as this takes a significant effort to produce and is only useful for items you wish to eat.

Quick facts

Their name comes from a 1705 engraving showing this spider as it ate a hummingbird drawn by German Naturalist Maria Sibylla.

The Goliath bird eating tarantula is the largest arachnid on Earth.

Photo Credits

Top

Ltshears / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Bottom

Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

References

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley, p.99.

Dallas World Aquarium. 2020. Goliath Bird-Eating Spider. [online] Available at: <https://dwazoo.com/animal/goliath-bird-eating-spider/> [Accessed 12 June 2020].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020. Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/goliath-bird-eating-tarantula> [Accessed 12 June 2020].

Nationalgeographic.com. 2020. Goliath Birdeater. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/g/goliath-birdeater/> [Accessed 12 June 2020].

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