June 20, 2019
Huntsman Spider Eats Pygmy Possum In Viral Photos From Tasmania

A huntsman spider crawled into a tourist's Tasmania hotel room and ate a possum, and photos of the incident have now gone viral, The Sun reports.

Thanks to old Warner Brothers cartoons, Tasmania's ceremonial animal is the Tasmanian Devil – a marsupial with a voracious appetite and an unearthly growl. (But it doesn't, by the way, spin around in circles like the cartoon version!) But the island off the coast of Australia has an equally-fearsome critter: the huntsman spider.

The voracious hunter can grow as large as 10-12 inches across, and is sufficiently fearsome-looking. Fortunately, they're not particularly venomous, nor are they a danger to humans. In fact, the spider rarely eats mammals, preferring small frogs or lizards instead.

Rarely, however, does not mean never, as tourist Adam Latton learned the hard way. He was staying at a lodge at Mount Field National Park when something caught his eye. That something was the giant spider having a meal, and that meal was a possum.

At this point it bears noting that the possum in question isn't the same creature that can be found rooting around American garbage cans. Those possums can weigh as much as 15 pounds; however, the meal the Tasmanian spider was consuming was a pygmy possum, which is roughly the size of a small mouse.

Graham Milledge, an arachnology expert at the Australia Museum, was suitably impressed.

"It would be fairly rare [for a huntsman spider to eat a mammal]. It's the first time I've seen a pygmy possum as prey," he said.

Milledge wasn't the only nature lover to enjoy watching the footage, while trying to discern its meaning. Julie Southwell, for example, noted that the pygmy spider is endangered, so it's regrettable that one had to die for the sake of the spider, although she doesn't begrudge the spider for simply doing what spiders do. She also notes that it's not unlikely the possum was already dead before the spider got to it.

"Just sad as the pygmy possums like so many creatures are struggling. I don't begrudge the Huntsman [sic] its meal, he or she needs to survive," she wrote.

Huntsman spiders get their name from the fact that, unlike most spiders, they don't build webs and trap prey; rather, they go on the hunt for their food. There are multiple species of the arachnid, distributed widely across the globe, except for the northernmost and southernmost regions. The spider's venom is not dangerous to humans, but being bitten by one can lead to pain and swelling.