It was nearly midnight in the Peruvian Amazon when scientists from the University of MI heard a scratching noise in the leaves and saw a dinner plate-sized tarantula dragging a opossum along the forest floor.
Namely, that those creatures are eating more small vertebrates, like frogs, lizards and snakes, than previously thought.
A tarantula the size of a dinner plate dragging around a young mouse opossum.
"When they looked, they saw the tarantula moving away with the opossum, which was still kicking weakly", he said.
"Any kind of predation event involving a vertebrate, whether it's a snake eating a frog or a bird eating a lizard - all of these are very rare", said Dan Rabosky, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of MI.
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Researchers studying interactions between predators and their prey in the Amazon rainforest spotted one encounter with a giant spider that'll leave arachnophobes trembling.
Most of the expeditions in the forest were at night, when the predators are more active.
Although numerous encounters were brutal, the team said by far the most vicious and terrifying is that between the tarantula and the mouse opossum.
They published other gruesome images of spiders with unusual prey.
As well as spider attacks, the team also documented centipedes feasting on vertebrates.
For small animals in the tropics, spiders and their arthropod cousins are responsible for "a surprising amount of death", scientists recently discovered. But knowledge of these interactions remains limited.
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In footage posted to YouTube by the university, researcher Mike Grundler, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the school, describes the encounter with the nightmare-inducing spider.
"In the South American rainforest, I've found that some of the larger tarantulas prey often on frogs, and that was reflected in this article". "And considering that there are hundreds of invertebrates that potentially prey upon vertebrates, the number of possible interactions between species is huge, and we are highlighting that fact in this paper".
An opossum expert at the American Museum of Natural History later confirmed they had captured the first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider preying on an opossum.
"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Grundler says.
A tarantula snacks on a Bolivian bleating frog. "But it is a special human bias that leads us to think that this is somehow freakier than many other ways of dying: there is nothing pretty about most predation, whether it is coming from lions or peregrine falcons or crocodiles or anything else".
Isn't the idea of frogs and tarantulas being BFFs just the most adorable thing?
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