Whoever loses in this first documented case of a wild tarantula battling a snake, ophiophobia and arachnophobia wins.
A lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective) team of scientists stumbled across this sight in the grasslands of Serra do Caverá in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil. After flipping over a rock, the researchers saw the tarantula (Grammostola quirogai) munching away on the body of an Almaden ground snake (Erythrolamprus almadensis).
They wrote their observations in the open-access journal Herpetology Notes, an online atlas of weird yet wonderful discoveries about amphibians and reptiles.
E. almadensis is a nonvenomous snake, typically no longer than 60 centimeters (23 inches) long. At the time of witnessing this creepy behavior, the snake was around 39 centimeters (15 inches) long and already dead. Speaking to Live Science, Leandro Malta Borges, one of the researchers who found the spider, said there are no studies that show whether this species of tarantula is equipped with venom. The researchers believe the snake was killed by the arachnid when it accidentally ventured into its thinly web-covered hole.
“Predation of such a large snake in relation to the size of the spider was extremely surprising to us," Borges told Live Science. "There are other records of spiders preying on snakes, such as the famous black widow, which has a strong toxin and, besides, rely on the web for capturing."
This isn't, however, the first case of a snake fighting a spider. In February last year, a farmer managed to see a comparatively tiny cellar spider chomping down on a brown snake in the Australian outback. Once again, the spider was the victor.