The Amazon rainforest is known for being home to an incredible range of animals and wildlife. Jaguars, manatees, sloths, toucans, butterflies, medicinal plants … and spiders. There are about 3,600 species of spiders inhabiting the Amazon basin, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Big, small, deadly, harmless, living out of sight or in plain view, the world of spiders in the Amazon is endlessly fascinating. From the classic Amazonian Tarantula to the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, here are some of the most interesting spiders of the Amazon – and everything you need to know about them.
Tarantulas have inhabited the Earth since the time of dinosaurs, and continue to reside in several parts of the world, often living up to 30 years of age.
Tarantulas are the largest spiders in the world, and the Amazonian variety is the largest of them all. Anyone visiting the Amazon rainforest can be sure to spot them. In fact, it’d be hard not to – some adults can measure up to 13 inches across! Don’t worry though, because despite being the largest spiders of the Amazon, their bites are not venomous. A bite from a tarantula will usually feel similar to a bee or wasp sting and has no lasting effects. The hairs covering their body, however, can be extremely irritating to human flesh, so maybe avoid getting too close!
These giants live in burrows in the ground or high in treetop nests, but can often be spotted on the sides of trees during the day or night. You’ll recognize their massive brown bodies, covered in black and brown barbed hairs.
Another fascinating species of spiders in the Amazon, these much smaller creatures can also be quite alarming at first glimpse. They live in the rainforest canopy and are known for leaping from tree to tree, using a safety line of excreted silk. They’re some of the friendliest spiders of the Amazon, as they’re quite curious. Anything new requires investigation, and that often includes unsuspecting travelers! Luckily, they’re also harmless to humans, so never fear if one jumps onto your snacks to inspect. Over 500 known species of jumping spiders exist in the Amazon, so your chances of spotting one are good.
Unlike the tarantulas and jumping spiders of the Amazon, the Brazilian Wandering Spider is one you might want to be a little more concerned about. Eight species of spiders fall under this category, all highly aggressive and venomous. They are part of the genus Phoneutria, coming from the Greek word for “murderess”, which is perhaps a more appropriate name for the dangerous arachnids. They are thought to be the most venomous spiders in the Amazon, and on Earth, and an untreated bite can kill a human in as little as 25 minutes.
There are eight different species of Brazilian wandering spiders, the largest being about 5 inches across. While it may seem big for a spider, it’s just small enough for them to sneak into exported fruits. Another nickname for these creatures is “banana spiders” since they have been known to hide in bunches of bananas, remaining undiscovered until reaching lands as far away as the USA or UK. These are the spiders you’ll hope not to see on an tour of the Brazilian Amazon.
Although they more regularly eat insects, rodents, snakes, and bats, the Goliath bird-eating spider got its name when an early Amazon explorer witnessed one eating a hummingbird.
If you can believe it, that’s not even the most shocking part of their diet: the female Goliath is known for sometimes eating their mates after copulation. On the bright side, males usually don’t live much longer anyways, often dying once they reach maturity, which is only one-fifth of the lifespan of females (females usually live up to 25 years). The goliath bird-eater is a member of the tarantula family and holds the crown of the largest spider on the planet by body mass (weighing up to 6.2 oz (175 g), falling a close second place in terms of leg span to the Giant Huntsman Spider of Laos that can grow up to 12 inches in diameter (30cm).
As terrifying as the Goliaths sound, their bites are similar to those of tarantulas in how they affect humans. Their fangs (sometimes up to 1.5 inches long) can easily puncture human skin, yet the venom is harmless to humans. Deep burrowers, a run-in with a Goliath bird-eating spider is not as common as with other spiders of the Amazon.
As if spiders weren’t creepy enough, one particular genus of arachnid in the Amazon has developed the ability to hunt fish. These spiders can be found waiting by the side of rivers, pools, and streams to pounce on unsuspecting fish or tadpoles. They have even been known to coat themselves in an air bubble and swim underwater to ambush fish.
It’s already one of the most stunning phenomena in nature how spiders spin their incredibly precise and detailed webs. This little spider takes it to the next level, however. The tiny decoy spider creates a huge spider-shaped sculpture in its web using bits of old leaf and plant matter, dead insect husks, and even its own shed skin! It then creates a pocket in the middle of the huge effigy that it sits in to await its unwary prey. This clever arachnid is a fairly recent discovery, and scientists are still unsure as to why it exhibits this incredible behavior.
Luckily for spider enthusiasts, these are just six of the most interesting spiders of the Amazon- but there are over 3,000 more for you to discover! It’s the magic of the Amazon that you can see such arachnids, bigger than your hand, able to jump from tree to tree, even able to catch and eat birds. Travel with a knowledgeable tour guide and you can be sure to spot the best of the spiders of the Amazon – and know which ones to avoid! Contact us for more information about taking an Amazon River Cruise and seeing them in person for yourself.
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