This may not come as a shock to the arachnophobes in the audience, but fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias the world over. Why? Because spiders are just scary. Even while most spiders aren't actually venomous enough to hurt us, they're creepy and crawly, and when they get on you, all you want to do is brush them off as quickly as possible.
Fantasy, science fiction, and horror are no escape, either. For as far back as J. R. R. Tolkien, at least, our media has been saturated with stories of giant spiders. They crawled across cinema screens in the '50s (and continue to do so today), and they populate our books and our video games. Fortunately, spiders don't get that big in real life... or do they?
Here are some of the biggest, creepiest crawlers in the spider world. The smallest is about five inches across. The largest? Well, if you're an arachnophobe yourself, you may want to stop reading right now. Also, before you say anything - no, camel spiders aren't on this list. Sure, they're pretty big and very creepy, but they're not actually spiders. Instead, they're their own thing, kinda midway between a spider and a scorpion.
If that name doesn't make you uncomfortable, you're probably not an arachnophobe. Its scientific name is Poecilotheria rajaei, but the recently discovered Face-Sized tarantula got its common name because, well, it's as big as your face. This Sri Lankan tarantula has also started making its way into buildings more and more often, as its preferred habitat (old-growth trees) is lost to deforestation. With enough venom to take the lives of small rodents, birds, lizards, and even snakes, the Face-Sized tarantula is also quite fast.
Fortunately for arachnophobes (and unfortunately for the Poecilotheria rajaei), it is fairly rare, even in its native country, and the elimination of its natural habitat has likely rendered this enormous spider rarer still.
Average Size: The Poecilotheria rajaei has a leg span of about eight inches. However, its body is relatively small compared to its legs, at least as tarantulas go.
Comparative Size: It's right there in the name. The Face-Sized tarantula is as big as an average person's face.
Region: Discovered in 2009, the Poecilotheria rajaei has, thankfully, thus far only been found in Sri Lanka, so unless you're exploring abandoned buildings there, you probably don't have to worry about running into one.
Is It Dangerous To Humans? The bite of a Face-Sized tarantula is deadly to snakes, lizards, birds, and small mammals, but it isn't going to do much to a person. That's probably not a lot of comfort if you wake up in the middle of the night with one proving the truth of its name, though.
Colombian Lesserblack Tarantula
The Xenesthis immanis, more commonly known as the Colombian Lesserblack, is one of the most striking of the giant spiders in nature. This makes this large tarantula, another in the Birdeater family, a popular pet. Its black coloring is contrasted by blond "bad hair day" hairs on its abdomen and purplish markings on the top of the head.
With a leg span that reaches around eight inches, it's also one of the largest spiders in the world.
Average Size: The largest Colombian Lesserblacks have a leg span of up to 8½ inches or more.
Comparative Size: At 8½ inches, the leg span of a Colombian Lesserblack is almost the same size as a bowling ball.
Region: As the name implies, the Colombian Lesserblack hails from Colombia, but specimens have also been found in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama.
Is It Dangerous To Humans? Even though the Lesserblack is a popular pet, not a lot of research has yet been conducted on the potency of its venom. However, like most tarantulas, its bite is probably mostly harmless to humans, beyond the pain caused by the fangs themselves.
Hercules Baboon Spider
Don't worry, it didn't get its name from eating baboons. Even if it did, the only known specimen of the Hercules Baboon spider was found in Nigeria more than a century ago. It may be extinct, but scientists who study spiders aren't giving up hope of finding another of these massive creatures someday.
In the meantime, you can buy smaller Baboon spiders as pets - often erroneously sold under the Hercules name. Unfortunately, they get their name from the fact that, in the wild, baboons often eat them, so these big tarantulas are wary of primates, including humans.
Average Size: Even the slightly smaller King Baboon spiders, which currently live in Africa, can have leg spans that measure as large as eight inches, and the Hercules was even bigger.
Comparative Size: With the largest carapace of any African spider, the Hercules Baboon spider was almost as big as a bowling ball.
Region: The only known specimen was captured in Nigeria. If there are any more around, chances are that's where they might be.
Is It Dangerous To Humans? The smaller and more common King Baboon spiders aren't specifically dangerous to humans, but they are bad-tempered. They will rear up and expose their fangs if approached, not to mention "hiss" by rubbing their legs together. Given that the Hercules Baboon spider just might be extinct, chances are humans don't have much to fear from these arachnid giants.
Colombian Giant Redleg Tarantula
Three words: "cartwheel of death." That's what some people have called the unique defensive behavior of the Colombian Giant Redleg tarantula. While most tarantulas wave their front legs and bare their fangs when threatened, the Colombian Redleg does something very different. It spins in a circle. This isn't just showing off, though. It adds thrust to the barbs that line this particular tarantula's back legs. These irritating barbs can scrape predators or get hurled into the air to clog mucous membranes, causing pain or temporary blindness.
It's also sometimes called the Eye-Candy tarantula due to its unique markings.
Average Size: With a leg span ranging from six to eight inches, that's a lot of back leg to throw those barbs from!
Comparative Size: Even at the small end, they're still almost twice the size of a softball.
Region: This striking and unique tarantula hails from Colombia.
Is It Dangerous To Humans? Like most tarantulas, the Redleg is venomous, but not enough to do much harm to humans unless they happen to be allergic. What you've got to be more concerned about is that aforementioned "cartwheel of death." It certainly won't cause your demise, but it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort if those barbs get in your nose or eyes.