Where to Find the World's Biggest Spider

We're talking the size of a dinner plate.

Worlds Biggest Spider
Photo: Pete Oxford/Getty Images

For extremely courageous travelers eager to see some of the world's most fascinating flora and fauna, there's a bizarre creature you can find only in the swampy rainforests of South America. Of all the creepy crawlies that populate Earth, the largest known spider is definitely one of the freakiest, and it's been spotted throughout northern Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. Light brown in color and endowed with inch-long fangs, you could almost confuse the arachnid with one of those gag decorations you see hung outside people's homes during Halloween.

It's known as the goliath birdeater, or Theraphosa blondi, and it's been described as being the "size of a dinner plate." This gargantuan tarantula easily tops the list of the world's largest spiders, even surpassing the oversized Huntsman with its body weight. Full-grown goliath birdeaters often reach nearly one foot in length, easily dwarfing its pet tarantula cousins. The largest one on record weighed in at more than six ounces — quite a bit heavier than the average house spider you might see scuttling across the attic.

Despite the name, goliath birdeaters rarely hunt birds, though they can. When British naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian went to Suriname in 1699, she witnessed one of these spiders feasting on a hummingbird. Merian then immortalized the scene in a famous sketch. More commonly, however, this oversized spider preys on earthworms and cockroaches (though the unlikely vertebrate such as a frog or small mouse is an occasional treat).

If you happen to be preparing for an adventurous trek through the jungles of South America, keep an eye out for a wild goliath birdeater. And should you encounter one, be sure to admire it from a distance. While its venom may be fairly harmless to humans, these small beasts can do damage with their body hair alone. Once threatened, they release a cloud of tiny barbed bristles that can lodge in the eyes, nose, and throat of their predators.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about goliath birdeaters is that people keep them as pets.

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