Piotr Naskrecki was taking a leisurely stroll through the rainforest of Guiyana after dark — always a great idea if you like being attacked by five animals at once — when he stumbled upon some sort of rodent rustling around near his feet. Or so he thought.
Once Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer for Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, clicked on his flashlight, he discovered the animal was actually a spider, roughly the size of a puppy. Unlike most people, Naskrecki did not wet his pants in terror and run away screaming like a little girl, but approached a bit closer to get a better look at the creature, which he described as “cute.”
The spider was actually the Theraphosa blondi, better known as the Goliath Birdeater. This South American spider is the largest in the world, with a leg span that can reach up to a foot, and a body the size of a large fist. They often weight more than six ounces, or the weight of a young puppy, Naskrecki wrote on his blog.
The birdeater is easy to identify by the loud sounds it makes as it walks. “Its feet have hardened tips and claws that produce a very distinct, clicking sound, not unlike that of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground,” Naskrecki wrote, but “not as loud.”
Perhaps most terrifyingly, he details that the spider began rubbing its hind legs against an abdomen, which sends out a cloud of hairs with microscopic barbs on them. If the hairs get in the eyes or any other mucous membranes, they become itchy and extremely painful for days on end. Its bite does transmit venom, but it is not deadly to humans.
Who wants to book a trip to Guyana now?