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12 Facts About The Goliath Birdeater, An Unexpectedly Gentle Giant  

Aaron Edwards
487.6k views 12 items

If you're reading this out of morbid curiosity because spiders freak you out, consider that most spiders you see are average-sized, relatively banal arachnids. What would do if you ran into the most massive spider in the world? If you ever find yourself in that position, you can take solace in the fact that it probably won't attack you. Believe it or not, despite its size, the Goliath birdeater is just another spider trying to make its way in the world. If you know a few amazing Goliath birdeater facts, you might even have a bit of fondness for these mammoth web-spinners. 

Being the biggest spider in the world comes with perks. Being bigger than the average human hand means you can take on large prey (it is, after all, called the birdeater, athough that's a bit of a misnomer), and not many animals will want to fight you. However, the Goliath birdeater isn't as deadly as some of its smaller brethren, who pack so much poison they could kill a horse with a few nibbles. Curious about spiders? Terrified of arachnids? Stoned and trawling the Internet? Regardless of why you're here, you'll find some dank, juicy morsels about the largest spider species in the world

It's The Most Massive Spider Species In The World
It's The Most Massive Spid... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Facts About The Goliath Birdeater, An Unexpectedly Gentle Giant
Photo:  Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

It should be no surprise a spider that can eat birds is huge. The Goliath is (quite literally) massive. It is the largest spider in the world in body size and mass. Its body length can reach 11.9 cm (about 4.5 inches) in length; some Goliath birdeaters have been known to reach lengths of 11 inches, which is about as big as a dinner plate.

Goliath birdeater leg span can reach 28 cm, and the spiders weigh around 175 grams, which is a little less than half a pound (what do you want, it's a spider, not an elephant). The only larger spider by any measure is the giant huntsman, which has a longer leg span

They Can Regenerate Lost Limbs Through A Molting Process
They Can Regenerate Lost Limbs... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Facts About The Goliath Birdeater, An Unexpectedly Gentle Giant
Photo: Smithsonian Institution-NMNH-Insect Zoo/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

Like many tarantulas, Goliath birdeaters molt past maturity, meaning they continually produce new skin and shed old skin, as do snakes. The process by which Goliath birdeaters molt can also be used to regenerate lost limbs. 

If a Goliath birdeater loses a leg, it increases fluid pressure in its body to pop off part of its carapace, or the hard shell covering the animal. It then pumps fluid from its body to its limb to force old skin off and creates new skin in the shape of the lost limb, which is filled with fluid until it becomes a solid leg. The spider then regrows the lost part of its carapace. This process can take as long as several hours, and the spider exists in an vulnerable state, its exposed parts the texture of rubber, until it is full regenerated. 

They Shoot Tiny Barbed Hairs From Their Abdomen As A Defense Mechanism
They Shoot Tiny Barbed Hairs F... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Facts About The Goliath Birdeater, An Unexpectedly Gentle Giant
Photo: snakecollector/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

When threatened, Goliath birdeaters can shoot tiny, barbed hairs (called urticating hairs) from their body. These extremely tiny hairs irritate to the skin, and can get caught in the eyes, nose, and mouth to great agitation of the attacker; they are especially damaging to soft, exposed areas with mucous membranes, such eyes. 

Males Die Not Long After Mating
Males Die Not Long After Matin... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Facts About The Goliath Birdeater, An Unexpectedly Gentle Giant
Photo: snakecollector/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Male Goliath birdeaters typically die a few months after mating, having fulfilled their biological function. The female spins a web, lays 50 to 200 eggs in that web, gathers the web into a ball, and carries it around. Carrying the egg sac makes Goliath birdeaters unique among tarantula species.