A husband and wife from Australia had the shock of their lives when they spotted a huntsman spider attempting to devour a pygmy possum at their holiday lodge last weekend.
The couple snapped a photo of the rare sight they came across while taking a road trip to the Mount Field national park in Tasmania, Australia, some 64 km (40 miles) northwest of Hobart.
Justine Latton shared the photo taken by her husband to a Facebook group dedicated to spiders and insects in Tasmania, which has garnered just under 1,000 likes and has been shared over 6,300 times at the time of writing.
“Possum-eating spider! Taken by my husband at a Mt Field lodge,” Latton wrote in a caption to accompany the two photos.
In the photos, the Huntsman can be seen sinking its fangs into the pygmy possum as it holds it mid-air.
The pygmy possum is relatively small in comparison to other species, and tends to weigh around 7 grams (0.2 ounces) and grows up to about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches), according to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services.
In comparison, the huntsman spider, which is given its name for its speed and how it hunts, can have a leg span of up to 15 cm (5.9 inches) and is commonly found in Australia or Asia.
Australia Museum arachnology collection manager Graham Milledge told The Guardian the event was unusual, adding that the spiders usually eat tiny geckos, frogs, or birds.
“It would be fairly rare. It’s the first time I’ve seen a pygmy possum as prey,” he said.
According to website Reptile Park, the huntsman spider devours a number of insects, arthropods, and even small frogs and lizards.
Rather than using a web to capture its prey, the huntsman relies on its stealth and speed, using its powerful fangs to hold down prey, which eventually becomes immobilized by the spider’s venom.
They can often be found roaming around on the walls of houses, under bark and stones, or on tree trunks.
A bite can cause occasional mild nausea to humans as well as localized pain and swelling, according to the site.
John Woinarski, Charles Darwin University conservation biology professor, told The Guardian that the huntsman was likely devouring an eastern pygmy—one of the two types of pygmy possum commonly found in Tasmania, which can grow up to 11 cm (4.3 inches) in length and weigh up to 43 grams (1.5 ounces).
“There are some habitat differences between the two species, and [an] eastern pygmy possum is more likely to occur in alpine and subalpine habitats, such as Mt. Field,” Woinarski told the publication.
Scores of nature lovers were stunned by the images posted by Latton, leaving comments in awe of the uncommon sight under the Facebook post.
“OMG what a once in a lifetime photo opportunity … I would be so freaking excited if I were lucky enough to witness this … not scary at all just interesting … Thanks for the share of such an epic photo!!” Emma Powell wrote.
While another commented, “Would have been amazing to see from the onset of battle—would have been so hard to not step in and help the little possum though.”
Huntsman Spotted Chomping Down on Mouse
It’s not the first time a huntsman spider has been spotted chomping down on a sizable meal in the country.
In 2016, a man from Queensland stumbled across a similar scene and filmed the moment a huntsman spider dragged a mouse up the side of a fridge as it got ready to devour its meal.
Jason Wormal, a tradesman from Coppabella in Queensland, said in a Facebook post, “So I am just about to leave for work about 0030 and my neighbor says ‘You want to see something cool’ and I say ‘Hell yeah’.”
“So we proceed to his place and he shows me this. Huntsman trying to eat a mouse.”
Stills from the footage show the spider sinking its fangs into the rodent as it carries it up to the fridge.
2016: In Australia: giant spider – Hermie the Huntsman – carrying a mouse is horrifying and impressive https://t.co/3MLz25SR5h
— Ed Hunter (@EdwardJWHunter) 18 June 2019
At the time, Graham Milledge told The Guardian he had never seen a huntsman spider target a mouse before.
“But I have seen huntsmen catch geckos. I’ve seen a redback spider catch a snake in its web, I’ve seen a golden orb spider catch birds,” he said.