Tarantula Filmed Eating Bird in Horrifying Video

A video of a spider eating a bird has appeared on Reddit, with a minute-long clip showing what appears to be a pink toe tarantula ingesting a house wren.

The video poster misidentifies the species as a Goliath birdeater spider. This is the largest spider in the world by mass, weighing up to 6oz and having a leg span of almost 12 inches. Other Reddit users pointed out the species was actually a member of the avicularia genus.

Jason Dunlop, from the Museum of Natural History at the Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Research, Germany, studies arachnids and their relatives. He told Newsweek the spider in the video appears to be a pink toe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia), "or at least something closely related."

According to the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, this is a species of tarantula that lives in trees. Females have a leg span of around 5 inches, while males are slightly smaller, at around 3.5 inches. They are black and hairy, with some pink coloring at the end of their legs. Pink toe tarantulas have four appendages near their mouths, with two containing their fangs and venom. The other two appendages are used as claws and for feeling.

The species is found in rainforests in northern South America. They are active predators, generally hunting small vertebrates like lizards, frogs and mice.

Dunlop said that generally, tarantulas do not eat birds—as seen in the video—but it is not unheard of. "I suspect the tarantula would have chewed up what it can," he said of the clip. "It basically regurgitates digestive juices on to the prey and then sucks the liquified remains back in...Whatever was left—bones, feathers—would simply be discarded."

The idea of tarantulas eating birds was made famous by German naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, who depicted such a predation event in her 1705 book Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. In one plate, she depicted a pinktoe tarantula eating a ruby topaz hummingbird.

In 2016, Brazilian scientists João Vitor Campos e Silva and Fernanda de Almeida Meirelles published a study looking at bird-eating spiders. In it, they document two cases where tarantulas have preyed on birds. In the first case, the spider Gymnopithys rufigula was observed attacking a bird that had got caught in a net used by researchers.

"The spider pierced the eye of the bird with its fangs, which caused the death of the bird in a few seconds," they wrote. "Afterwards, with no human interference, the spider cut the net and took the bird to the entrance of its burrow, located at 1.5m [5ft] from the net. At 11:30h, the bird had its head and a small portion of its body digested."

In the second case, a pink toe tarantula was seen preying on a wren. "As in the previous record, this species of spider introduced its fangs into the bird's eye and, after the action of the digestive enzymes, proceeded to feed on the head of the bird."

Concluding, the researchers say the fact both events began with the spiders attacking the eyes is interesting. They say because eyes have softer tissues, the venom may be injected quicker and the digestive enzymes spread faster. "Furthermore, the first area to be digested would be the brain. Birds have large and well-developed brains in comparison to the rest of their bodies...It is a highly nutritious organ, which justifies it being consumed first than other body parts."

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Stock image of a pink toe tarantula. A reddit user posted a video of a tarantula eating a small bird. iStock
Tarantula Filmed Eating Bird in Horrifying Video | Tech & Science