About a week ago, an Australian named Justine Latton posted a couple photos to a “Tasmanian Insects and Spiders” Facebook page. Her husband captured the intriguing snaps on a trip to Mt. Field National Park in Tasmania and she wanted to share.
Now, Tasmania is a beautiful place. Just lovely. I mean, look at that.
Still with me? Good.
While it would be tempting to call this a Photoshop job, these pics are real — Snopes has already run it by their fact-checkers and confirmed it. So, are you ready? Get your blocking hand in position, my squeamish friends.
Here’s the Facebook post:
In case you need to see it from another angle:
Horrifying, right? Australian animals do have that reputation.
However, this scenario is slightly less horrifying than it seems at first. As Snopes notes in their article, that is a humongous spider, but it’s not quite as big as it looks in this photo. The creature it’s eating is called a pygmy possum, and it’s only about the size of a wee mouse. The image below is of an adult female pygmy possum, for instance:
Also, in the second photo that Latton posted to Facebook, you can see the hinge of a door next to the spider. Using that for scale, you can imagine the spider’s size a little better. Way bigger than what you’d ever want to see in your bedroom at night but not big enough to wrestle your dog.
The spider in question is a huntsman, and it’s just doing what it does. These amazing arachnids don’t spin webs to catch food, they hunt — hence the name. The unlucky pygmy possum was just in the wrong place at the really wrong time.
So, don’t cross a visit to Australia off your bucket list on account of this one photo.
“It would be fairly rare,” said Australia Museum archeology collection manager Graham Milledge in The Guardian, of the possum-eating spider. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a pygmy possum as prey.”
That’s because, Snopes says, the two species generally don’t live in the same areas and thus wouldn’t often encounter each other. However, possum and hunstman habitats do overlap in Mt. Field, so it is one place in the world where this could happen.
It’s a shame, really. Apparently, the huntsman spiders did not get the memo that these pygmy possums are downright adorable.
Huntsman spiders typically eat insects and other invertebrates, or, according to Milledge, small birds and frogs. Not all huntsman species are gigantic, and none are dangerous to humans.
In fact, it would seem some people like to hold them in their hands for fun.
(We cannot recommend that you try this at home unless you are very, very, very sure that you are holding a huntsman.)
After a couple hours looking at and learning about huntsman spiders for this story, I felt like I was starting to be tentatively OK with their existence. But then I came across a little bit of folklore from the Queensland Museum: “Some people claim these spiders scream.”
And then I had to look it up on YouTube and that was the end of me being cool with these guys. Here’s a video from user cazmachine88:
Huntsman spiders, you’re just terrifying — never change.