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Spiders' Eating Habits Surprise Researchers

One is spotted feasting on an opossum in the Amazon
By Richard Kemeny,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2019 10:27 AM CST

(Newser) – Scientists watched on in amazement as a dinner-plate-sized tarantula in the Amazon was seen eating an opossum for the first time. "We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing," says Michael Grundler of the University of Michigan. The finding, recorded on video, was revealed as part of a new study that suggests spiders and other invertebrates—such as caterpillars—may have been wildly underestimated in terms of the amount of vertebrates they eat. The researchers collected video and photo evidence of invertebrates eating snakes, lizards, and tadpoles, reports National Geographic. Most of the sightings were at night, in the lowland tropical rainforests of Peru. It seems that when darkness falls, a whole host of many-legged creatures come out to feast.

The fact that spiders have varied diets isn’t surprising, per ScienceAlert. Elsewhere, they’ve been seen munching snakes, mice, and birds. But the extent may have been underestimated. The area studied is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, reports ScienceDaily. The team’s research over several years has mainly focused on reptiles and amphibians. But they couldn’t help but being shocked by this discovery. During the night, the researchers would head out in single file, headlamps on, watching and listening for life. "One offshoot of the work that we've been doing is this collection of odd natural history events we've witnessed involving arthropod predators and vertebrates," says the UM's Joanna Larson. "I have not reached the level of being grossed out by any of it yet. We'll see what else Peru has to offer."

Watch the video (Read more spiders stories.)

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