Australia is back at it again. The world is currently freaking out over a photograph showing a huntsman spider quietly dragging away a pygmy possum for its dinner.
“The photo was taken by my husband, Adam, when he was staying at one of the lodges at Mount Field in Tasmania's South West with some mates,” Justine Latton told IFLScience. “I didn't imagine it would cause such a media maelstrom!
“The blokes had to catch the pair and release them outside, in order to open the door! But no spiders were harmed in the relocation effort – too late for the possum.”
Tasmanian pygmy possums are nocturnal marsupials and the smallest known species of possum in the world. Nevertheless, their small stature shouldn’t take away from how unusual this clash of creatures is.
“Pygmy possums are quite common up there, we reckon the spider probably just saw an opportunity and went for it!" said Latton. "It was one of the biggest huntsman spiders he'd ever seen. And Tasmanian Pygmy Possums are the smallest of the pygmy possums, I believe. This one was about the size of a large walnut."
Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae) are a family of arachnids that can be found creeping across large swathes of the world and are not to be messed with – if you're a small animal, that is. Many members of this group use venom to immobilize their prey, although they are generally considered low-risk to humans as their venom is only potent enough to cause mild symptoms, such as swelling and redness. However, if you’re a pygmy possum, the bite can be lethal. That said, huntsman spiders aren’t known to eat pygmy possums.
“This occurrence is very unusual, I'm told," added Latton. "Huntsman spiders will sometimes take a small lizard or frog, but mammals are not their usual diet. They most often eat other spiders and insects.”