5 Terrifyingly Huge Spiders

Image credit: 
Ranil Nanayakkara/Wired.com

These massive spiders can’t be dispatched by a shoe or rolled-up newspaper and are sure to give you nightmares—even if you're not an arachnophobe.

1. Poecilotheria rajaei

Wired.com

This recently announced new species of tarantula, found in Northern Sri Lanka, has a leg span of 8 inches—that's roughly the size of your face! It’s part of an arboreal group called tiger spiders, which are indigenous to India and Sri Lanka. A dead male specimen of P. rajaei—which was distinguished from other tiger spiders by the markings on its legs and abdomen—was first presented to scientists in October 2009 by a local villager; a survey of the area revealed enough females and juveniles that scientists are confident they've found a new species. “They are quite rare,” Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research, told Wired. “They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings.” P. rajaei was named after a police officer who helped scientists navigate the area where it was found.

2. Theraphosa blondi


Wikimedia Commons

Though Theraphosa blondi is called the Goliath Bird-eating spider, it doesn’t actually eat birds. Reportedly, it got its name when an explorer saw it eating a hummingbird, but like other tarantulas, its diet consists mainly of insects, frogs, and rodents. But we’ll forgive you if you’re not comforted by that fact. After all, this spider can have a leg span nearly a foot across—the size of a dinner plate—and weigh up to 6 ounces, making it the largest spider in the world by mass. Its fangs, up to an inch long, can break human skin. (Though venomous, its poison won't bring down a human.) Native to South America, the spider makes noise by rubbing the bristles on its legs together; the sound can be heard up to 15 feet away.

3. Heteropoda maxima


National Geographic

Yet another reason to avoid dark caverns: Discovered in a cave Laos in 2011, the Giant Huntsman spider has a leg span of 12 inches. It’s just one of over 1000 species of Huntsman spider. These speedy arachnids can chase down their prey with ease and have legs that extend forward, like a crab’s.

4. Golden Silk Orb-Weaver

Wikimedia Commons

These arachnids, of the genus Nephila, have a fearsome relative: the largest fossilized spider ever found is an ancestor. Females of this family of spiders, which are found around the world, can have leg spans up to 6 inches (the males are smaller). Though these Orb-Weavers typically eat large insects, some individuals in Australia have been snapped eating snakes and birds that got caught in their strong, 5-foot-diameter webs.    

5. Phoneutria nigriventer


Wikimedia Commons

Sure, Phoneutria nigriventer's nearly 6-inch leg span is scary—but there's something else about this spider that makes it even more terrifying: Its venom, a neurotoxin that can be fatal to humans. In fact, along with P. fera, this spider is the most toxic on Earth (thankfully, a good antivenom exists). Native to Central and South America, P. nigriventer is also called the Brazilian Wandering Spider, for its tendency to roam the forest at night, and the banana spider, both because it hides in banana plants during the day and sometimes stows away in shipments of the fruit. When threatened, the spider lifts its front two pairs of legs and sways side to side, like so:

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April 4, 2013 - 8:00am
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