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A Man Caught a Spider Eating His Pet Goldfish and, Well, It's Terrifying

A tour guide in Barberton, South Africa, wanted to show his date his pet goldfish, Cleo, which he kept in the pond by his house. To the man's surprise, Cleo wasn't in the pond when he got there; she was hovering in midair, caught in a spider's fangs. 

The tour guide (a man named Jérémy Schalkwijk) knew he was witnessing something remarkable when he pulled out his camera and began cataloging Cleo's final moments. Sadly for the fish, her demise was just part of a typical day for the eight-legged assassins known as nursery web spiders — a family of semiaquatic arachnids than can walk on still water, dive beneath the surface to evade predators and even "fish" for prey many times their own size.

How common is spider-on-fish predation? According to a 2014 study in the journal PLOS ONE, spiders in eight of the world's 109 arachnid families can catch and eat small fish, and do so on every continent but Antarctica. Rather than building webs to catch prey, these arachnids hunt for their meals in person, on land and in the water. (Tellingly, some spiders within this family are also known as "fishing spiders," "dock spiders" and "raft spiders.")

They do this by lowering their front legs down to rest on the water's surface while anchoring their hind legs to an adjacent stone or plant. The water acts like a web, with the spider able to detect minute ripples created, for example, when an unlucky insect falls in and gets trapped by the water's surface tension. 

When something yummy passes by the spider's perch — be it a fallen bug or passing fish — the spider lashes out with its front legs and brings the prey to its jaws. The spider bites down with flesh-piercing fangs, injects its prey with a lethal, neurotoxic venom, then finally hauls its dead quarry back to dry land.

In an interview with The Sun, Schalkwijk estimated that Cleo must've been double the length and weight of her octopedal attacker. While this may seem like an incredible load to bear, it's actually below average for fishing spiders. In the 2014 study, which surveyed 89 incidences of spider-on-fish predation, the ensnared fish was about 2.2 times as long as the spider on average, with some spider species ensnaring fish five times their size. 

That's pretty freaky — but not nearly as freaky as the Goliath "birdeater" spiders of South America, which can grow to up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) long. What do Goliath birdeaters eat? We'll let you figure that out for yourself.

Originally published on Live Science.

  • Trench777
    Man sees spider eating pet (pre-2019): Kill spider, save pet.

    Man sees spider eating pet (post-2019) Take pictures & upload them to social media in the hopes of becoming "viral".

    Yeah, yeah, it was probably a goner due to the toxins already injected by the spider, but you don't just let your pets get dragged off by 8 legged hellspawn!, I don't care what the chances of survival might be. :p
    Reply
  • TessaT
    I thought exactly the same thing. What's wrong with people these days ...
    Reply
  • boomer hater
    Trench777 said:
    Man sees spider eating pet (pre-2019): Kill spider, save pet.

    Man sees spider eating pet (post-2019) Take pictures & upload them to social media in the hopes of becoming "viral".

    Yeah, yeah, it was probably a goner due to the toxins already injected by the spider, but you don't just let your pets get dragged off by 8 legged hellspawn!, I don't care what the chances of survival might be. :p
    ok boomer
    Reply
  • boomer hater
    TessaT said:
    I thought exactly the same thing. What's wrong with people these days ...
    ok boomer
    Reply
  • Mitchel Stark
    Someday the man will gonna eat the spider too :D:D:D
    Reply
  • SciLife
    Trench777 said:
    Man sees spider eating pet (pre-2019): Kill spider, save pet.

    Man sees spider eating pet (post-2019) Take pictures & upload them to social media in the hopes of becoming "viral".

    Yeah, yeah, it was probably a goner due to the toxins already injected by the spider, but you don't just let your pets get dragged off by 8 legged hellspawn!, I don't care what the chances of survival might be. :p
    "It's all because of that damn phone!"
    Reply
  • April
    If people and spiders could be friends.... Imagine, finding dead fish at your door step. I don't like fish much but it's better than when a cat wants to be your friend with the dead birds and such. Also I would not have nightmares and freak out in my head when I have to take them outside. 😂 would be awesome to have a buddy spider on camping trips. Bypass the hooking of the worm
    Reply
  • Minamii
    Let us not get holier-than-thou about this. Humans also eat fish. So many that the oceans are now getting extremely bare and fish stocks are plummeting. We also eat spiders, in parts of South-east Asia they are considered a delicacy. The cost of spiders in street markets is going up as they become rarer and harder to obtain from the wild.
    So if we're going to finger-point and say, "Oh, poor Cleo, kill the nasty spider!" let us please remember that the Apex Predator on Earth is the human. We're the only ones who have the luxury to say, "Well, perhaps I won't kill and eat that other living, breathing creature I share my environment with."
    We're the lucky ones...so far. But if we don't stop eating everything with a pulse, that may not continue.
    Reply
  • Xkelx90
    Minamii said:
    Let us not get holier-than-thou about this. Humans also eat fish. So many that the oceans are now getting extremely bare and fish stocks are plummeting. We also eat spiders, in parts of South-east Asia they are considered a delicacy. The cost of spiders in street markets is going up as they become rarer and harder to obtain from the wild.
    So if we're going to finger-point and say, "Oh, poor Cleo, kill the nasty spider!" let us please remember that the Apex Predator on Earth is the human. We're the only ones who have the luxury to say, "Well, perhaps I won't kill and eat that other living, breathing creature I share my environment with."
    We're the lucky ones...so far. But if we don't stop eating everything with a pulse, that may not continue.
    Cost of spiders are going up? Anyone who wants a spider in my yard or house will not only not have to pay me, I will pay them. Lol
    Reply
  • geodrone
    Trench777 said:
    Man sees spider eating pet (pre-2019): Kill spider, save pet.

    Man sees spider eating pet (post-2019) Take pictures & upload them to social media in the hopes of becoming "viral".

    Yeah, yeah, it was probably a goner due to the toxins already injected by the spider, but you don't just let your pets get dragged off by 8 legged hellspawn!, I don't care what the chances of survival might be.
    Pre-2019: Man sees grizzly bear drag off his ex-wife, calls ranger. Post-2019: Man sees grizzly bear drag off his ex-wife, turns off geolocation on phone and leaves.
    Reply