In recent weeks, a photograph was shared showing a huntsman spider quietly dragging a pygmy possum home for dinner, then devouring it whole. The image is frightening, to say the least.
“The photo was taken by my husband, Adam, when he was staying at one of the lodges at Mount Field in Tasmania’s South West with some mates,” Justine Latton told IFLScience. “I didn’t imagine it would cause such a media maelstrom!”
“The blokes had to catch the pair and release them outside, in order to open the door! But no spiders were harmed in the relocation effort – too late for the possum.”
The Tasmanian pygmy possums is a nocturnal marsupial. It is also the smallest known species of possum in the world. Latton explained, “Pygmy possums are quite common up there, we reckon the spider probably just saw an opportunity and went for it! It was one of the biggest huntsman spiders he’d ever seen. And Tasmanian Pygmy Possums are the smallest of the pygmy possums, I believe. This one was about the size of a large walnut.”
Not everyone has had such a nonchalant response to the clash of creatures. It seems the general consensus is to stay clear of Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), which are a family of arachnids found in large swathes across the world. They really aren’t to be messed with — if you’re a small animal, that is. The spiders use venom to immobilize their prey. Their venom is considered low-risk to humans and will only cause mild symptoms, such as swelling and redness. The same can’t be said for pgymy possums, however.
“This occurrence is very unusual, I’m told,” added Latton. “Huntsman spiders will sometimes take a small lizard or frog, but mammals are not their usual diet. They most often eat other spiders and insects.”
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Images Credit: Justine Latton