A tarantula the size of a plate with a big appetite was the prey of a young opossum during a recent hunt in the Amazon rainforest – and this horrible encounter was filmed.
Biologists at the University of Michigan (U of M) have been studying predator-prey interactions, especially between arthropods and small vertebrates, for a few years in the low-lying rainforest near the foothills of the Andes. They detailed 15 different predation events in an article published Thursday in "Amphibian & Reptile Conservation".
"This is an underestimated source of mortality in vertebrates," said Daniel Rabosky, an evolution biologist at the University of Manitoba, who leads a team of researchers in the forest. Amazonian about once or twice a year. "A surprising amount of small vertebrate deaths in the Amazon is probably due to arthropods such as large spiders and centipedes."
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Michigan researchers captured images and still images of battles between spiders, snakes, scorpions, ants, beetles, water bugs, among others. Many predators relied on paralyzing venom to trap their meals, while others used their large jaws to their advantage.
Each interaction was brutal (in its own way), but none was as vicious as the massacre of a mouse opossum by a tarantula (teraphid spider) in the late evening.
"The spider was on the ground in the leaf litter holding the opossum by the neck region," the researchers describe in their article, pointing out that the opossum – roughly the size of the penis. a softball – was still alive when they spotted the pair.
After about five minutes, the creature became motionless and the spider dragged it behind a tree root, disappearing in the dark.
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After viewing images of this rare event, Robert Voss, a mammologist at the American Museum of Natural History, confirmed that it was apparently the very first documentation on "a large mygalomorphic spider." [tarantula] "attacking opossums", reports National Geographic.
"We were rather ecstatic and shocked, and we could not really believe what we were seeing."
"Tarantulas predation on vertebrates is not a common thing, but it happens, they are opportunistic eaters who will take whatever they can control," said archaeologist Rick West, who was not part of of the research group. that they usually feed on frogs.
The news was a good surprise for the researchers.
"We were rather ecstatic and shocked and we could not really believe what we were seeing," said Michael Grundler, Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia and author, said in a statement. "We knew we were attending something quite special, but we did not know it was the first observation after that."
During their expedition, the authors of the study had only one goal: to better understand the food web and the "pressures" that affect small animal populations.
"The predation of small vertebrates by arthropods has been documented in several lowland rainforest sites, but our knowledge of these interactions remains limited, particularly due to the diversity of vertebrate prey and potential arthropod predators. in tropical species-rich communities, "the researchers explain. "[…] It is essential to document predation by spiders and other arthropods in these ecosystems, although many predatory arthropods remain undescribed and are primarily classified as morphospecies because they provide a better understanding of a significant source of vertebrate mortality that appears to be less common in extratropical communities. "