True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter

Photo Essay: Spiders from Around the World

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True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter
Goliath Bird-EaterGoliath Bird-EaterTo scare off predators, the goliath bird-eater makes loud hissing noises by rubbing together bristles on its legs and jaws. The noise is called "stridulation," and some say it sounds like frying bacon, or even the rattle of a rattlesnake. To defend itself, the bird-eater also has tough, barbed hairs that it uses to fend off attackers. The sharp hairs can severely irritate human skin.
Goliath Bird-EaterGoliath Bird-EaterOne of the largest spiders in the world, the goliath bird-eater is a type of tarantula. It grows to as large as a foot across in the forests of South America, where it inhabits burrows in marshy areas. Despite its name and its inch-long fangs, the bird-eater actually prefers crickets, moths, and small lizards.
Brazilian Wandering SpiderBrazilian Wandering SpiderThere are at least five kinds of Brazilian wandering spiders, one of the world's most dangerous arachnids. At best, their venom can seriously sting; at worst, it can kill. In the wild, wandering spiders forego webs or burrows. They patrol the forest floor and trees, looking for prey such as insects and small lizards. But they are also known for infesting banana plantations -- so be careful if you see a spider peeking out from your bunch of bananas! They are not only extremely venomous but also very fast and aggressive, and won't hesitate to bite! Here, a female wandering spider guards her egg sac.
Communal SpidersCommunal SpidersMany of the 35,000 known kinds of spiders are essentially loners. Communal spiders, however, live and work together in groups of up to several thousand individuals. The cooperative behavior allows them to weave giant webs and gang up on prey that no single spider could handle. They also help one another raise young spiders, and defend their colonies from threats. When communal spider colonies get too big, they simply split apart into several new communities. Here, Martin Nicholas uses a tuning fork to simulate vibrations made by possible prey, which spiders gather to nab.
Pink-Toed TarantulaPink-Toed TarantulaLiving high in the trees above flooded riverside forests in South America, pink-toed tarantulas hunt everything from insects to hummingbirds. They are best known for a Houdini-like ability to escape from predators. When threatened, the tarantula leaps from its perch and parachutes down to the forest floor. Landing on water is no problem: the spider's hair-covered body floats like a cork, allowing it to paddle to safety.
Blind TarantulaBlind TarantulaAmong the world's rarest spiders, blind tarantulas are known only to live in a few caves in Mexico. There, in total darkness, they rely on the sense of touch to move around and find food. Their nearly transparent skin is covered with fine, supersensitive hairs.
Golden Orb-Weaving SpiderGolden Orb-Weaving SpiderKnown for producing the world's strongest silk, golden orb-weaving spiders weave large webs between trees to catch flies, locusts, grasshoppers, and even small birds. The spider sits at the center of the web, waiting for the telltale vibrations that signal trapped prey. Male spiders are much smaller than the females, and sometimes risk being eaten during courtship. Females produce a single sac holding up to 1,000 eggs. The tiny spiderlings hatch in 2 weeks, and eventually drift on the winds to a new perch.
Tucson Blond TarantulaTucson Blond TarantulaThese chunky spiders can grow to 3 or 4 inches across, and live in arid areas across southwestern North America. They hunt at night, and live in burrows that often include a woven silk gate across the opening. Tucson blonds grow slowly, maturing at 10 to 12 years old. Males try to attract a mate by standing at the top of a female's burrow and "drumming" on its silk. They are particularly vulnerable to predation by females during mating. Here, a female attacks an amorous visitor.
Jumping SpiderJumping SpiderJumping spiders are active hunters, stalking and pouncing on prey instead of using silk to capture them. More than 4,000 species live around the world, typically perching in plants while scanning for prey using four sets of eyes that give them nearly wraparound vision. They can jump 10 to 30 times their own length when on the hunt. Prior to jumping, they spin a safety line that helps them climb back to their perch in case they miss the target.
Whip ScorpionWhip ScorpionThese ancient cousins of true spiders also have eight legs. But they have a few things spiders don't, including a long, thread-like tail made of fine hairs that can be "whipped" around to help the scorpion sense its environment. Unlike true scorpions, whip scorpions do not have a sting. Instead, when threatened, whip scorpions squirt attackers with an acrid, stinging acid that's far stronger than vinegar from the base of its tail. In this picture, the white spots on the indicator paper are the acid released by the scorpion.