Animals

Someone Snapped A Terrifying Photo Of This Spider Eating A Possum In Australia

Warning: This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Fair warning: If you’re deathly afraid of spiders, or are sensitive to yucky stuff, you should probably skip this story. Or maybe put a hand over the screen when we get to the photos. OK?

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.

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Planning a day of adventure with @travellingonthompsontime from the Bruny Island Neck lookout, with views out onto Adventure Bay and beyond. The bay has long been a refuge for some of the world's most intrepid explorers, with Abel Tasman, the first European in the region, sailing its shore in 1642 and Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773, later naming the bay after his ship, the Adventure. Captains James Cook and William Bligh also took in these views after their own voyages through the wild waters of the Tasman Sea. Today, adventure here looks a bit less demanding for visitors, with your pick of leisurely day-walks, plenty of taste-testing and, of course, the climb of the lookout's 238 stairs. πŸ˜πŸ§€β˜€οΈ

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Still with me? Good.

Here comes the gnarly part: The photos show a massive spider chowing down on a possum. The spider is upside-down and holding the dead mammal in its mouth, its black eyes gleaming.

While it would be tempting to call this a Photoshop job, these pics are real β€” 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:

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Meet Miranda, an adult female Eastern Pygmy Possum. She is now collared, microchipped and ready to be released, and radio-tracked, at her new home in North Head Sanctuary. The latest round of re-introduced mammal monitoring at North Head shows that this threatened species is doing well, with two unchipped Eastern Pygmy Possums being discovered – one of them with three furred pouch young! Visit our website to find out more about how we are protecting and restoring one of the world’s smallest possums, that measures approximately 10cm long and weighs around 45grams. πŸ“Έ M Prada #EasternPgymyPossum #PygmyPossum #Possum #Native #AustralianMade #ThreatenedSpecies #NorthHead #NorthHeadSanctuary #AWC #AWConservancy #SmallMammal #Marsupial #SydneyConservation #Reintroduced #Conservation

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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 β€” hence the name. The unlucky pygmy possum was just in the wrong place at the really wrong time.

The Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus), also known as the little pygmy possum, is the world's smallest possum.

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 β€” never change.