Face-Sized Tarantula Discovered by Scientists in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 03:41 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A new species of tarantula that is the size of a human face has been discovered by scientists in Sri Lanka.

With a leg span up to 8 inches across, the spider lives among the trees in the island nation’s disappearing plantations and is a variation of the tiger spider, which is native to India and Sri Lanka.


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The new species of tarantula was discovered by scientist Ranil Nanayakkara and his colleagues during a recent extensive search in northern Sri Lanka reports MSN News.

"Days of extensive searching in every tree hole and bark peel were rewarded with a female and to our satisfaction several juveniles too," Nanayakkara and his colleagues published in a study via the British Tarantula Society Journal.

The search for the giant tarantula stemmed from a 2009 discovery in which local villagers killed such a spider and presented it to Indian researchers who had never seen one that large on the island nation before.

"This species has enough significant differences to separate it from the other species," Peter Kirk, editor of the British Tarantula Society‘s journal told Wired.

Kirk, however, was quick to note that labeling the spider a new species could be premature considering taxonomic determinations have yet to be conducted and could reveal that the spider is not a new species, adding "I absolutely would love to see DNA sampling done."

Tiger spiders prey primarily on birds and small rodents, but are also known to eat small snakes. They rely on their speed and potent venom as opposed to webs. They are known for being colorful, fast, and venomous.

Despite its size, tiger spiders are not the largest tarantula known to man.

The Goliath birdeater, which received its name courtesy of explorers from the Victorian era who witnessed it eat a hummingbird, is the largest tarantula. Its leg span measures up to 12 inches across.

The massive spider can be found in rain forests across South America, particularly in the north, and generally resides in marshy or swampy areas, occupying burrows abandoned by other creatures.

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