Oh, Good: Face-Sized Spiders Discovered in Sri Lanka

The words "spider" and "face-sized" should probably never be used in a sentence together.

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Ranil Nanayakkara

Tiger Spider Genus Poecilotheria.

Some thing may forever haunt our dreams. Like the words “spider” and “face-sized” used in a sentence together.

(MORE: Flea Circus Wiped Out by Freezing Weather)

And yet here those words are, straight from northern Sri Lanka, where scientists say they’ve discovered a new type of giant tarantula with a leg span of up to eight inches. Grab your rulers and mirrors, because yep, that’s about the average length of a human noggin.

As if that weren’t frightening enough (or cool enough — you pick), this particular spider was found living in trees. Anyone who’s ever walked beneath a tree and wound up brushing away a tiny spider knows that some arachnids enjoy an arboreal life, dangling from silken threads to surprise unsuspecting trail-walkers. Now imagine one the size of a volleyball landing on you like one of the facehuggers from Alien.

And in case you were thinking they probably look far worse than they are, this one’s actually quite venomous. Oh, and fast — because of course it is. So now imagine being chased by a poisonous, sprinting, face-sized spider.

But okay, let’s focus on saying nicer things about this poor not-so-little spider for a moment. According to Wired:

Covered in beautiful, ornate markings, the spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, known as “Pokies” for short. These are the tiger spiders, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colourful, fast, and venomous. As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, the world’s largest.

Yes, we know of at least two spiders bigger, not that that’s any consolation: The “goliath bird-eater” mentioned above (its name probably speaks for itself), and the appropriately cave-dwelling “giant huntsman,” the world’s largest spider, with an average leg span of — avert your eyes, arachnophobes! — a full 12 inches.

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91 comments
amandayoyay1
amandayoyay1

awesome i want to go to sri lanka and see that spider now!!!!!!!!!!!!

shinngenn
shinngenn

I wouldn't go outside for good TT 

AravindaRathnayake
AravindaRathnayake

just to letting you guys know we have giant huntsman spiders and giant wood spider in Sri Lanka tow :)

hummingbird
hummingbird like.author.displayName 1 Like

Asia, Africa and South America have some exotic creatures that you really don't want to encounter. Stay out of the jungles and you should be fine...I think.

voyager6331
voyager6331 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Why did I look at it.  Oh why?

jenspence278
jenspence278 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thanks. I really needed that.

Not.

SpiderFox
SpiderFox like.author.displayName 1 Like

What about Camel Spiders?  I'm surprised there is no mention of them...  I did two tours in Iraq and saw several of them.  They can grow to nearly a foot (although I never saw any THAT big).  Talk about scary (and that's saying a lot when you dodge mortars every day)!

CatSh
CatSh

@SpiderFox ok guys, I looked it up. Camel spiders ARE Arachnida, but NOT true spiders. Nor are they scorpions. They are a separate order.

Check out the pictures online. I think I prefer these face-sized 'Pokies'. Camel spiders look like something out of Alien.

LarryLizZard
LarryLizZard like.author.displayName 1 Like

@SpiderFox Camel spiders have only 6 legs. They aren't arachnids.

SpiderFox
SpiderFox like.author.displayName 1 Like

@LarryLizZard @SpiderFox Sorry- don't want to get into an "I'm right, you're wrong" debate, but they are arachnids and do actually indeed have eight legs...

LarryLizZard
LarryLizZard

@SpiderFoxI stand corrected, they are indeed in the arachnid family. Just not in the spider class. I know what you're sayin though. I've seen the youtube footage.

SpiderFox
SpiderFox

@LaVerneKeller @SpiderFox Y'all are missing my point... I'm not arguing that (although they are still arachnids and still have eight legs- except for the ones Craig pointed out got hit by a mortar). A foot long spider or a foot long scorpion (which they aren't either because they have no tail)... It doesn't matter- that's one scary creature to encounter!

LaVerneKeller
LaVerneKeller

@SpiderFoxFox Actually camel spiders aren't really spiders per se they're more closely related to other arachnids like scorpions.

CraigHyatt
CraigHyatt like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

@SpiderFox He must be talking about the ones that got hit by mortars. ;)

brettdan23
brettdan23 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

I walked into a spider web that was face level one morning, I instantly learned Kung Fu.

KellicTiger
KellicTiger like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Dear North Korea,

Please nuke Sri Lanka.  Thanks.

KennethRumbarger
KennethRumbarger

@KellicTiger: That only takes care of the face-sized spiders shown in this article, not their larger relatives in South America. Besides, North Korea usually only threatens countries whom they want to bring to the bargaining table. What could they possibly want from Sri Lanka?

KellyWalsh
KellyWalsh like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why do these have to exist?????

KennethRumbarger
KennethRumbarger

@KellyWalsh I would have to see what kinds of things they catch in their webs first. Things about which you may ask the same question.

GaryWilson
GaryWilson like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@KellyWalshand the spider would ask, "Why do you have to exist?"  Ever take an ecology class? 

WalterZiobro
WalterZiobro like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Someone in Hollywood is probably writing the script right now for the first horror movie to star this creature.

DonBrock
DonBrock like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

I want to see one on someones face for perspective.

KennethRumbarger
KennethRumbarger

@DonBrock Shouldn't be too difficult. Call the folks at Ripley's or Guiness. They have people that let thousands of bees crawl on their face to set records; they may not mind spiders either.

Derrick
Derrick like.author.displayName 1 Like

The photos attached to this article include several species of spider. I hope the reader knows which one is the one they are talking about.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams like.author.displayName 1 Like

OK, there is just NO REASON to have spiders this big.  None.  At least not within a 1,000 mile radius of where I am at any given time.

KennethRumbarger
KennethRumbarger

@SamuelAdams Assuming that we're both in the continental United States, we're at least 1,000 miles from either Sri Lanka or South America. Excluding zoos, you're OK.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName 1 Like

@SamuelAdams I agree. You should probably be quarantined for everyone's safety. 

wolf27
wolf27 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec  hahahahahah well said my friend, and thanks for making my day! 

Rachael
Rachael

Why does it have ten legs?


CraigHyatt
CraigHyatt

@Rachael To make it look even more spidery.

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

@Rachael The two little ones in the front are pedipalps. They aren't legs. The spider uses them to taste what it's planning to eat.

PhilBooth
PhilBooth like.author.displayName 1 Like

 Spider as big as my face??!!!!  What does it eat?  Flies as big as my MIDDLE FINGER?

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@PhilBooth I've seen roaches in Myrtle Beach that would make it a nice meal.

And calling them 'palmetto bugs' doesn't make it any better...

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

This article is childish, irresponsible, and full of absolute rubbish information. Poecilotheria is a very well documented group of spiders common in the pet trade and known for their extreme beauty. So this new type is larger. Cool. They ARE very fast tree dwellers that do NOT build a conventional web and do NOT dangle from anything. That means even if you do happen to be prancing around Sri Lanka your chances of encountering one of these animals is quite slim and the chances of it letting the loud, giant mammal that you are get anywhere near it are even slimmer. They just now discovered it for crying out loud and I doubt that happened when it jumped on someone's face. Because animals really like to jump right on a potential predator's mouth. Matt Peckham decides he's going to have an easy day at the office and do a nonsense story that plays on people's fears and completely disregards the animal, the hard work done every day by people fighting to actually educate about the natural world, and any standard of decent journalism. Cheers. Well done.

CraigHyatt
CraigHyatt

@ninrec After reading your smug, know-it-all, self-serving rants, I decided I like that ugly-ass spider a lot better than I like you.

alleykitten1987
alleykitten1987 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@ninrec i love this comment. thank you. i feel like i know a lot more about this spider than i did from reading the article. i hate that some people seem to look at spiders as our enemies. they would probably never want anything to do with humans, and when they encounter us, it is probably not by choice.

NatTy
NatTy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ninrec  i guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName 1 Like

@NatTy @ninrec It absolutely is! The problem is that humans have a lot of power to hurt something when they don't see it as beautiful or valuable.

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec @SamuelAdams this reminds me of a post a read some months ago on bed bugs. Seems the bugs infested her son's bedroom and she didn't want to spray with poisons in the house. So she closed the door and left it sealed up for several months.

When she later went back in, she found the room littered with dead bed bug carcasses. Seems those little hunting spiders moved in and neatly eradicated every bed bug in the room.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName 1 Like

@SamuelAdams @ninrec Again, arguing with you is ridiculous - but spiders are the number one predator of insects worldwide. Insects that spread deadly disease and damage crops. Go ahead and squish the spitting spider living in your house - that way it can't eat the brown recluse that's living there, too. 


SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ninrec Spiders are PESTS.  Venomous spiders can kill or seriously maim a human being.  If it stays in Sri Lanka in the trees, then it will have no problem from me.

If it's inside my home - it's dead meat.  Someone else will have to make it that way - but its chances are zero for survival.

SloppyJ30
SloppyJ30 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Because of course people reading this are too simple to take this post as tongue-in-cheek. Ninny, you can present all the wonderful, incredible arachnid-related facts you want . . and I'm sure there are a ton . . but the fact is, spiders are icky. At least, most people find spiders icky. Is this fair to the poor little critters? No. Does acknowledging this unfairness change the ickiness? Nope. Grasp that rod firmly and pull it out of your nether regions.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@SloppyJ30 I totally agree with you that people love to be overly indignant about things and it can be ridiculous. But when you see animals suffer each day and you work with animals and really begin to understand them it is not easy to just accept ignorance no matter how widespread it may be. I think a bigger problem than over-indignance is people being so comfortable in their anonymity that they're proud of themselves for a snappy comment and some rude names instead of answering a respectful argument with another respectful argument.@SloppyJ30 @SloppyJ30

ninrec
ninrec

@SamuelAdams @ninrec It's clear that there is probably no point arguing with someone who is proud to say that they believe an animal on the other side of the world deserves suffering because it exists, but for anyone else reading this - No, you're right. We are definitely not talking about kittens. Kittens are animals that have evolved to please humans and of which there are so many  that thousands have to be euthanized each day. They are animals that have been introduced to delicate ecosystems by people and have proceeded to endanger countless native species. What we are talking about is an extremely rare and reclusive animal only just now discovered by science because deforestation has begun pushing it into abandoned buildings. Believe me I love me some kittens but if we are talking about the relative value of a kitten to this spider - there's no contest. If you want to talk about what a kitten can do compared to a spider (aside from their ecological impact) - a kitten can spread plague carrying fleas, it can spread rabies while this spider could give you some pain and swelling if you happened to be in an abandoned hut in Sri Lanka and were somehow miraculously able to catch it and squeeze it. 

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec Spiders deserve any suffering that comes their way.

THEY'RE SPIDERS.

We're not talking about kittens here, dimwit.

ninrec
ninrec

This guy is a tech and music correspondent. He should stick to what he knows. And there's a link at the bottom of the story to an article about spiders invading an Indian town that was debunked as absolute nonsense months ago. This is Time's website we're on isn't it?

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec You expected a serious scientific article in Time magazine? Seriously?

Read the author's bio-blurb. Not someone I would expect to write a scientific review.

This article is for amusement only - and i think he did a pretty good job of it.

ninrec
ninrec

@CatSh @ninrec And no, while I don't expect a scientific paper, I funny expect blatant misinformation either.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@CatSh @ninrec It might be amusing if what people believed about animals didn't affect how they behave towards animals. But unfortunately it does. You can call me a stick in the mud and that's fine but I've worked at zoos and aquariums and rescues for many years and seen a lot of the sad consequences of ignorance first hand. 

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec @CatSh The only thing to be done with a spider like this is chemical defense (Raid) or squishing it with a boot.


Mind you - the squishing will need to be accomplished by someone other than myself, as I will not be in the vicinity after first exposure to said spider.

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@ninrec Yeah. it would have been nice if he had included the link to the source article.

ninrec
ninrec like.author.displayName 1 Like

@CatSh @ninrec For sure! But many more people will read an article like this than will seek out a scientific paper. It could have been funny and played a bit on people's fears and had a few tidbits of decent information.

CatSh
CatSh like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ninrec There is plenty of high-quality information available. But most of these people are getting their information from fiction movies and TV shows - not from articles written to amuse.

You could write the best article in the world about panda bears, and you would STILL have people who want to go up to a real panda in a zoo and cuddle becasue they are SO CUTE on TV. There is no cure for this kind of ignorance....