Giant spiders have always been the stuff of nightmares. Why else would they appear in books and films as villains in their own right – like Shelob from Lord of the Rings or Aragog in Harry Potter.
While the fictional versions are pretty scary, there are real-life giant spiders that inhabit our world. While they may not be the size of a car or anything, they’re a far cry from the small creepy-crawlies that live inside our bathtubs. They’re the Goliath Birdeater.
Appropriately named, the Goliath Birdeater is the largest spider in the world and is able to feed on sparrows due to their size and strength.
Unfortunately, there are some spiders out there in the real world that can grow to truly frightening proportions. Okay, so maybe they’re not as big as a car, but they’re certainly not the kind of creepy-crawly you’d like to find scuttling around the inside of your bathtub. They’re usually around 4.5 inches in length but have been known to reach as big as 11 inches. For anyone that needs that put to scale, it would be around the size of a big dinner plate. And their legs can span 11 inches as well. The Goliath Birdeater can weigh in at around 175 grams, which is a bit less than half a pound!
If their stats alone aren’t enough to make your skin crawl, they also have the ability to regenerate lost limbs when they molt and shed excess skin. They have the capacity of shooting tiny barbed hairs out the back of their abdomen, and they have been known to lay up to 200 eggs during one mating cycle. Although they have fangs large enough to break skin, they’re not considered dangerous to humans. The spiders only ever bite when threatened, and although they do have venom, the effects of the bite are comparable to a wasp sting.
But don’t worry, you’re unlikely to ever have to encounter these giant spiders outside of a zoo, as the Goliath Birdeater only lives in marshy or swampy areas of the rainforests in northern South America.