The world’s largest spider is the Goliath Birdeater, a tarantula that has some scary dimensions to rival its frightening name. It can grow up to nearly a foot across, weighing in at more than six ounces, with fangs that are over an inch long. The largest individual, according to Guinness World Records, had legs that spanned 11 inches – large enough to cover a dinner plate.
The spider is a native of South America, where it lives in jungles and rain forests (the largest specimen was discovered in Venezuela). Locals claim that the giant arachnids have eaten hummingbirds – hence the name. They have also been observed preying on rodents, lizards, bats and even deadly venomous snakes. Despite having a large mass, the spider prefers to eat things that are a little more bitesize, catching insects and other invertebrates in its silk web and killing them with its venom. Fortunately for humans their bite is equivalent to the sting of a wasp – a far cry from the most venomous creatures on the planet.
The Birdeater is a burrowing spider that lives in marshy areas, relying on vibrations through the ground to sense prey and danger. Females live 15 to 25 years, while males typically die after they mature at 3 to 4 years – partly because females often eat them after mating. Each female Birdeater can lay 300 to 400 eggs that hatch into spiderlings in two months. In addition to their bite, the spiders can also engage in chemical warfare. When threatened, they rub their abdomen with their hind legs and release hairs that are a severe irritant to the skin and mucous membranes.
Another type of scary eight-legged insect, the Giant Huntsman Spider, was discovered in a cave in Laos in 2001. The body is said only around 2 inches long, but the legspan is 12 inches. Still, the Goliath Birdcatcher crushes the Giant Huntsman in terms of weight – the Huntsman only weighs 2.5 ounces.