A giant tarantula was filmed resulting in the death of a young opossum in what is believed to be the very first documentation of a spider attacking these small marsupials.
In the images released by the University of Michigan, we see the huge spider, about the size of a plate, above the opossum of the young mouse, which was about the size of a soft ball.
"The possum had already been gripped by the tarantula and was still struggling weakly at that time, but after about 30 seconds, it stopped hitting," said biologist Michael Grundler in a statement. "We were rather ecstatic and shocked, and we could not really believe what we were seeing.We knew we were attending something quite special, but we did not know it was the first observation after facts."
The team, led by evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky, was studying predator-prey interactions in the Amazon rainforest. To do this, they conducted night surveys by walking through the forest with flashlights and lighthouses and peering through the foliage for signs of activity. One night, they heard "stumbling into leaf litter". When they lit up the ground from where the rustling came, they saw the spider and the opossum.
After viewing the images, an expert from the American Museum of Natural History confirmed that it was the first testimony about a spider attacking an opossum.
During the research trip – in the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon, southeastern Peru – the team also captured spiders chasing frogs, lizards, snakes and fish. Their conclusions were published in the journal Conservation of amphibians and reptiles. The images of the trip show different species of spiders and their meals.
Spiders are extremely diverse predators and we know that they eat creatures from all major vertebrate groups, including birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. They tend to have specialized body parts for hunting, such as venom, modified jaws and huge fangs.
In addition to the spider attacks, the team also documented the treat of centipedes on vertebrates. In one case, the team saw a large scolopendrid centipede eating a dead coral snake. Co-author of the study, Joanna Larson, said, "Coral snakes are very dangerous and can kill humans. To see one taken by an arthropod was very surprising. These centipedes are terrifying animals, actually. "
Rabosky said that they had discovered an "underestimated source of mortality among vertebrates" in the rainforest. "A surprising number of small vertebrate deaths in the Amazon is probably due to arthropods such as large spiders and centipedes," he said.