Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Double Fistful of Nope

So a few days ago one of my Twitter peeps tweeted this article about a Harvard professor exploring the Amazon who came face-to-mandibles with a Goliath birdeater, the world’s biggest spider, and like a fool, I clicked on it.


According to the article, the professor, Piotr Naskrecki, was taking a nighttime stroll through the jungles of Guyana, as you do, when he heard strange rustlings in the undergrowth that sounded like “a possum or a rat.” He turned on his flashlight – wait, what? He was wondering around in the jungle at night and waited until he heard strange rustlings in the undergrowth to turn on his flashlight? This is why I never got a PhD, you guys.

Anyhoo, the good doctor turned his flashlight on the beast, and in his own words, “I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing.”

If you read that article I linked to above, you’ll already know that it describes the spider in question as “puppy-size.” It further informs us that this particular species of giant spider can weigh more than six ounces (170 grams), with a leg span of up to 12 inches (30 cm) and “a body the size of ‘a large fist.’” As if Ebola, climate change, serial killers, antibiotic resistance, the GOP, school shootings, and all the rest weren’t bad enough, I now have to live with the knowledge that there exists in the world “puppy-size” spiders. I mean, okay, Pomeranian puppies, but still. And my doctor wants to know why I can’t sleep at night.

Of course, Dr. Naskrecki doesn’t see it that way. Instead of shrieking like Ned Flanders and fleeing into the night, he says he “lung[ed] at the animal, excited about seeing one of these wonderful, almost mythical creatures in person.”

On his own blog, Dr. Naskrecki explains that the Goliath birdeater – which, naturally, does not eat birds – is capable of growing so large because of its low metabolic rate. The Goliath birdeater also has claws, which is why it makes so much noise while stalking its prey, earthworms, across the forest floor. The terrified spider attempted to defend itself against the intrepid explorer by emitting a warning hiss and releasing “a cloud of urticating hair” that irritated Dr. Naskrecki’s eyes for several days. It also tried to bite him, apparently, with its “enormous fangs, capable of puncturing a mouse’s skull,” which is the exact thing that I, personally, would be worried about.