Fact Check

Goliath Birdeater Spider Spotted in Rainforest

Are puppy-sized spiders roaming the South American rainforest?

Published Oct 20, 2014

Claim:   A puppy-sized spider was spotted in the South American rainforest.


Example:   [Collected via email, October 2014]

Is this a hoax? Puppy sized spider seen in the rainforest.


Origins:   It may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but the photos showing a "puppy-sized spider" are real.

On 8 October 2014, Piotr Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, uploaded several photos of a South American Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) to his blog, The Smaller Majority:

I could clearly hear its hard feet hitting the ground and dry leaves crumbling under its weight. I pressed the switch and pointed the light at the source of the sound, expecting to see a small mammal, a possum, a rat maybe. And at first this is what I thought I saw, a big, hairy animal, the size of a rodent. But something wasn't right, and for a split second the atavistic part of my brain sent a ping of regret that I didn't bring any companion with me on this particular night walk. But before that second was over I was lunging at the animal, ecstatic about finally seeing one of these wonderful, almost mythical creatures in person.

The photos went viral on 17 October 2014 when they were picked up by LiveScience.com. Since then, thousands of people have gazed upon these incredible images and thought to themselves: That can't be real, can it?

It can be real, and it is. The Goliath Birdeater spider is the world's largest spider; and according to Guinness World Records, the largest specimen was discovered during an

April 1965 expedition in Rio Cavro, Venezuela, when researchers came across a male spider with an 11-inch leg-span.

The Giant Huntsman Spider may have a longer leg-span at 12 inches but the Huntsman does not compare to the Birdeater in terms of body length or weight. The specimen examined by the Guinness Book of World Records had a body the size of a "large fist" and weighed around 6 oz, or about the same as a small puppy.

The photographs of the Goliath Birdeater are real, but there is at least one thing misleading about the spider's name: this eight-legged creature doesn't actually eat birds. This monstrous arachnid is most likely capable of chowing down on its feathered foes, but it doesn't get many opportunities to do so; instead, the Goliath Birdeater's diet consists mainly of earthworms, frogs, snakes, and other critters scurrying around the rainforest floor.

Last updated:   20 October 2014


    Bullen, Jamie.   "The Sound of Little Hooves in the Night."

    The Smaller Majority.   8 October 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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