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Huntsman spider (Heteropoda
venatoria), Family Sparassidae
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: This was quite a show! There I was, in the evening darkness in my hut, in the middle of the Congo, Africa ... and my headlamp beam happened to sweep the wall. And there clung this huge spider. A huntsman, or sparassid (of family Sparassidae). And it was rapidly pursuing, then catching, then eating a giant tropical cockroach.
Although many people fear spiders, I have grown to love their diversity and have tried to educate myself on their behavior and ecology.
Huntsman spiders are startling, in that they are very large (this one was more than palm-sized) and move incredibly quickly across all manner of surfaces, and tend to hide under bark, crevices, luggage, car sun shades, you name it. During another trip to the Congo, I even found one nestled under the toilet seat that I nearly sat on but for which I had the wisdom (or fear) to first check.
Although huntsman spiders can bite, sometimes with severe effects, one study reported that 76% of bites by sparassids were because the spider was bothered -- picked up directly or hiding in an object that was picked up. Bites always resulted in pain and various levels of discomfort, but there were no reported cases of necrotic ulcers or allergic reactions.
For me, my sparassid friend and I peacefully shared our hut for a week -- he enjoying his feasts of roach pests, and me enjoying watching the show.
Next week's picture: Fruit of the Elephant
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