A visiting entomologist and photojournalist made the discovery of a lifetime whilst exploring Guyana’s forest. Moving between the foliage on the forest’s floor was a South American Goliath bird eater, (theraphosa blondi), rumoured to be the world’s largest arachnid. Although the spider is said to be relatively harmless to humans, it can be deadly to smaller animals.
The Goliath bird eater is a spider belonging to the tarantula family, and is considered to be the largest spider in the world. The spider is native to the upland rain forest regions of northern South America. Goliath bird eaters are terrestrial, living in deep burrows, and are found commonly in swampy areas. It is a nocturnal species. Females usually eat their mates after they would have served their niche in the fertility process. Females mature in 3 to 6 years and have an average life span of 15 to 25 years. Males die soon after maturity and have a lifespan of 3 to 6 years. Bird eaters have hair on their bodies, abdomens, and legs. The female spider can lay up to 200 eggs, which after a short two month period can be considered as grown spider lings.
Goliath bird eaters produce sounds by rubbing the hair like bristles on their pedipalps and legs. Also when threatened, they rub their abdomen with their hind legs and release hairs that cause severe irritation, if and when contact is made with the eyes. These urticating hairs can be harmful to humans, and the species is considered by some to have the most harmful tarantula urticating hair of all.
The Goliath bird eater, like the tarantula, possesses fangs that can actually penetrate and break the skins of humans. They carry venom in their fangs and have been known to bite when threatened, but the venom is relatively harmless and its effects are comparable to those of a wasp‘s sting.
Even though its name suggests it sustains itself from the consumption of birds, the Goliath bird eater, like other tarantula, has a diet that consists mostly of insects. However, because of its size and ability to convert into a readily armed predator, it is all too common for this spider to consume small terrestrial animals such as rodents, frogs and toads, lizards, and snakes.