Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
S24 Ep8

True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider Hunter

Premiere: 2/12/2006

Martin Nicholas searches for exotic spiders such as the goliath birdeater of Venezuela and a small South American spider that creates a web up to 30 feet long.

About

SHARE

SpiderHunter-Main

They can run, and they can try to hide, but no spider can escape the tireless pursuit of Martin Nicholas, as he proves in True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter.

Comic book hero Spider-Man can climb walls and swing from building to building on super-strong silk. But that’s nothing compared to the spider superpowers revealed in True Adventures of the Ultimate Spider-Hunter.

Join spider expert Martin Nicholas, a mild-mannered water treatment engineer by day, as he tours the world in search of some of the most amazing arachnids. First stop is Arizona, where the spider hunter encounters Tucson blond tarantulas. This spider can detect movement on the surface from two feet down its burrow. The desert also harbors jumping spiders, with binocular-like eyes and incredible jumping abilities. In southern Mexico, Nicholas seeks the legendary golden orb-weaver, which produces the world’s strongest silk. Armed with his spider-cam — “a miracle of precision engineering and duct tape” — Nicholas travels to French Guiana in search of the world’s biggest spider, the goliath bird-eater, which can grow to 12 inches in diameter.

Along the way, meet communal spiders that work together — by the thousands — to build web cities, and the pink-toed tarantula, which can both skydive and walk on water! Even Spider-Man might have a hard time equaling that.

Production Credits

Television Credits

Narrated by
HARRY PRICHETT

Camera
KEVIN FLAY

Sound
ROBBIE JOHNSON

Editor
ROB DAVIES

Dubbing Editor
GARY McINTYRE

Dubbing Mixer
RICHARD LAMBERT

Online Editor
CHRISTIAN SHORT

Graphics
PATRICK JONES
JULIAN KIRBY

Post Production Team
CHARLIE GILBERT
CLAIRE HALLIDAY

Production Coordinator
CELINE RITCHIE

Production Manager
KAREN MEEHAN

With Thanks to
BBC Motion Gallery
Shane Burchfield
Rosamond Coates
Estacion De Biologia Tropical ‘Los Tuxtlas’
Juan Nunez Farfan
Linden Higgins
Stan Lee
Marvel Characters, Inc.
Johannes Moonen
Peter Sprouse
Barney Tomberlin
Francisco Torregrosa

Head of Production
TERESA WATTS

Executive Producer
BRIAN LEITH

Producer / Director
RUPERT BARRINGTON

For NATURE

Series Editor
JANET HESS

Supervising Producer
JANICE YOUNG

Producers
JILL CLARKE
PATTY JACOBSON

Associate Producer
IRENE TEJARATCHI

Production Secretary
RACHAEL TEEL

Manager
EILEEN FRAHER

Production Manager
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN

Online Editor
JAY SLOT

Sound Mix
ED CAMPBELL

Series Producer
BILL MURPHY

Executive in Charge
WILLIAM GRANT

Executive Producer
FRED KAUFMAN

A Production of Granada Wild and Thirteen/WNET New York

 

Web Credits

Producer
MARY HOPE GARCIA

Art Director
SABINA DALEY

Designers
RADIK SHVARTS

Pagebuilding
BRIAN SANTALONE

Writer
DAVID MALAKOFF

Production Artist
YING ZHOU-HUDSON

Production Assistant
DIANA COFRESÍ-TERRERO

Technical Director
BRIAN LEE

About the Writer

David Malakoff is a journalist covering research discoveries and the politics of science for SCIENCE MAGAZINE in Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in a wide range of venues, including THE ECONOMIST, THE WASHINGTON POST, and ABCNews.com.

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Dan Goldman, Executive Director, thirteen.org. Bob Adleman, Business Manager.

SHARE
TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: AN UNDERCOVER EXPLORER INVESTIGATES A COMIC BOOK HERO.

HE'S ON A MISSION TO FIND SPIDERS WITH SUPER POWERS.

[ Man laughing ] HERE THEY COME!

HE CAN COMMUNICATE WITH THEM AND SEE WITH SPIDER EYES.

HE TRAVELS UNDERGROUND... I CAN'T BELIEVE WE FOUND ONE.

AND DISCOVERS A GIANT.

I SHOULD WRITE ABOUT YOU. YOU'RE A SUPER HERO.

WHO IS THIS MAN?

Narrator: IN AN ORDINARY BRITISH TOWN, IN AN ORDINARY BUILDING... IN AN ORDINARY OFFICE, THERE'S A MAN LEADING AN EXTRAORDINARY DOUBLE LIFE.

[ TELEPHONE RINGS ] MARTIN NICHOLAS.

Narrator: MARTIN'S AN EXPERT SALESMAN OF WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS.

Nicholas: AND THE SORT OF FLOW RATE?

YEAH, NO PROBLEM.

HANG ON, LET ME JUST CHECK FOR YOU.

Narrator: BUT THIS IS A FRONT FOR A SECRET LIFE OF ADVENTURE.

Nicholas: AND YOU'RE LOOKING AT A COST OF ABOUT £2,700 FOR THAT.

OKAY?

MAX, I'M GOING TO BE AWAY FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.

IF YOU NEED ANY MORE DETAILS, IT'S PROBABLY BEST TO PHONE THE OFFICE.

YEAH, TAKE CARE.

BYE-BYE.

Narrator: MARTIN LIVES IN AN OLD CHURCH DEEP IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE.

IT'S ALSO HOME FOR HIS WIFE AND SOME CLOSE FRIENDS.

MARTIN IS ONE OF ENGLAND'S LEADING TARANTULA EXPERTS.

HE FILLS HIS SPARE TIME WITH JOURNEYS TO DISTANT PARTS OF THE GLOBE.

HE FOLLOWS OBSCURE MAPS, DISCOVERS RARE SPIDERS, MAKES ENDLESS NOTES, AND PUBLISHES HIS WORK.

I'VE BEEN FASCINATED BY SPIDERS FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER.

IN FACT, ONE OF MY EARLIEST MEMORIES FROM CHILDHOOD WAS WALKING ALONG THE COUNTRY LANES WHERE MY GRANDMOTHER USED TO LIVE, FEEDING FLIES TO ALL THE SPIDERS IN THE HEDGEROWS.

Narrator: HE WAS ALSO FASCINATED BY SPIDER-MAN, THE BOY BITTEN BY A SPIDER, WHO DEVELOPS SPIDER SUPER POWERS, LIKE STRENGTH... WALL CLIMBING... AND MAKING INCREDIBLY STRONG SILK.

NOW MARTIN'S PREPARING FOR A MISSION TO INVESTIGATE WHETHER SPIDERS REALLY HAVE THESE SUPER POWERS AND TO FIND OTHER SPIDER POWERS SPIDER-MAN MIGHT HAVE FOUND USEFUL.

HE'LL BE USING SOME RATHER BIZARRE EQUIPMENT.

MARTIN'S JOURNEY BEGINS IN THE HOME OF MAKE-BELIEVE.

HE WANTS TO GO BACK TO THE ORIGINS OF SPIDER-MAN'S TALENTS.

HE WANTS TO MEET THE MIND BEHIND THIS CARTOON WORLD.

SPIDER-MAN'S CREATOR, STAN LEE.

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR SPIDER OR SPIDER-RELATED STORY THAT YOU CAN REMEMBER THAT SPARKED SPIDER-MAN?

I WAS TRYING TO THINK OF A SUPERHERO WHO HAD A NEW SUPER POWER.

AND THEN I SAW A FLY CRAWLING ON THE WALL.

AND I THOUGHT, 'GEE, WOULDN'T IT BE SOMETHING 'IF I COULD GET A HERO WHO COULD CRAWL ON WALLS LIKE AN INSECT?'

SO THE FIRST THING YOU NEED WHEN YOU DO A SUPER HERO, YOU'VE GOT TO COME UP WITH A GOOD NAME.

SO I SAID, 'WELL, LET ME SEE, I'M GOING TO TRY THAT.

'HOW ABOUT INSECT-MAN? NAH.

HOW ABOUT MOSQUITO-MAN?'

THAT WAS EVEN WORSE.

FLY-MAN -- WELL, MAYBE.

AND I WENT DOWN THE LIST OF ANY CRAWLING THING I COULD THINK OF, AND THEN I CAME TO SPIDER-MAN.

AND I SAID, 'HEY, WAIT A MINUTE, SPIDER-MAN.'

Narrator: A LEGEND WAS BORN.

BUT WHY DID STAN GIVE SPIDER-MAN ONLY A FEW SPIDER POWERS?

THAT WAS ALL I KNEW ABOUT SPIDERS, THEY CLIMB ON WALLS AND THEY SHOOT WEBS.

Narrator: THERE WAS A LOT STAN DIDN'T KNOW.

THE OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF SPIDERS, THINGS LIKE PRODUCING VENOM.

AND OUTRIGHT ASSASSINATION IN SOME CASES.

YOU KNOW, I NEVER KNEW THAT SPIDERS PRODUCE VENOM.

DO THEY? I STILL DON'T KNOW.

SPIDERS HAVE SKELETONS ON THE OUTSIDE OF THEIR BODIES?

IT'S CALLED AN EXOSKELETON.

I NEVER KNEW THAT. THERE YOU GO.

MY GOD, IT'S THE SIZE OF OUR -- WE HAVE A CHIHUAHUA THAT ISN'T MUCH BIGGER THAN THAT.

IS THAT THE BIGGEST OR ARE THERE BIGGER ONES?

HELL, NO, THEY GET TO BE ABOUT 12 INCHES ACROSS, THE VERY BIGGEST ONES.

12 INCHES, YOU MEAN THEY'RE THIS BIG?

THE LARGEST SPIDER IN THE WORLD, IT'S CALLED THE GOLIATH BIRD EATER.

SO COMPARED TO THE BIG ONES, THAT'S JUST A LITTLE, LIKE, A BABY ONE, RIGHT?

THAT'S LIKE A MID-SIZE ONE.

YEAH, WE SHOULDN'T BE IMPRESSED WITH THAT GUY.

THIS IS THE ONE I WANT TO SEE.

12 INCHES ACROSS... YEAH, DAMN RIGHT.

THE SIZE OF A DINNER PLATE. OF COURSE.

BOY, DID I PICK THE RIGHT INSECT.

OR ARACHNID OR WHATEVER HE IS.

ARACHNID, NOT 'ERIC-NID,' ARACHNID.

YOU KNOW, PO-TAY-TO, PO-TAH-TO, IT'S PROBABLY HOW YOU SAY IT IN AMERICA.

MY WIFE IS ENGLISH, AND WE HAVE THAT PROBLEM ALL THE TIME.

Narrator: SO HOW REALISTIC WERE THE FEW POWERS WHICH STAN LEE GAVE SPIDER-MAN?

WHAT OTHER REAL SPIDER POWERS MIGHT HE HAVE FOUND USEFUL?

MARTIN'S INVESTIGATION BEGINS IN THE DESERTS OF ARIZONA.

Nicholas: THIS IS CERTAINLY SOME SPECTACULAR LANDSCAPE.

LONG BEFORE THE DINOSAURS WALKED AROUND IN COUNTRYSIDE LIKE THIS, THE RELATIVES OF SPIDERS WERE HIDING IN THE CREVICES AND THE ROCKS, CLIMBING THE BUSHES.

AND I'M HERE, ACTUALLY, TO FIND SOME OF THEIR PRESENT-DAY DESCENDANTS, MANY OF THEM COMPLETELY UNCHANGED SINCE THE TIME OF THE DINOSAURS.

AND A LOT OF THEM WITH SUPER POWERS THAT I THINK SPIDER-MAN WOULD HAVE ENVIED.

Narrator: SPIDER-MAN HAD THE ABILITY TO SENSE THINGS APPROACHING THAT HE COULDN'T SEE.

CAN REAL SPIDERS ACTUALLY DO THAT.

MARTIN THINKS THE DESERT'S BIGGEST AND MOST PRIMITIVE SPIDER HOLDS THE ANSWER.

IT'S A TARANTULA CALLED THE TUCSON BLOND.

Nicholas: THIS IS AN IDEAL PLACE TO LOOK FOR THESE, FOR THESE ANCIENT SPIDERS.

AND WE FOUND A BURROW... RIGHT DOWN HERE.

YOU CAN TELL IT'S A BURROW OF A VERY PRIMITIVE SPIDER BECAUSE IT'S GOT THIS COVERING OF SILK.

THESE SPIDERS DON'T USE THE SILK TO CATCH THEIR PREY IN THE WAY THAT A BIG, ROUND WEB WOULD DO.

WHAT THEY DO, THEY USE IT TO LINE THEIR BURROW WITH TO MAKE SURE THAT PREDATORS DON'T COME LOOKING FOR HER.

LET'S SEE IF SHE'S AT HOME.

Narrator: CAN THIS SPIDER SENSE MOVEMENT ON THE SURFACE FROM 2 FEET DOWN IN HER BURROW?

Nicholas: I CAN'T FEEL HER ACTUALLY NIBBLING IT.

YES, I CAN.

SHE'S GOT IT, AND SHE'S COMING OUT.

HERE SHE COMES.

SEE HER SNAP?

SHE MEANT THAT ONE.

THAT WAS A FULL ON STRIKE.

SHE'S GUARDING HERSELF VERY, VERY WELL.

SHE'S NOT GOING TO COME BEYOND THE LIMITS OF HER BURROW DURING THE DAY, I DON'T THINK.

Narrator: SHE'S ACTIVE AT NIGHT, SO MARTIN WILL RETURN LATER TO LEARN HOW THIS SPIDER SENSES THINGS SHE CAN'T SEE.

AND HE'LL NEED SOME OF HIS UNUSUAL EQUIPMENT.

IN THE MEANTIME, HE'S AFTER AN ANCIENT COUSIN OF THE SPIDER'S WITH AN ALMOST SCIENCE FICTION STYLE OF SELF-DEFENSE.

THIS IS THE IDEAL SORT OF SPOT THAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR.

IT'S THE BANKS OF A DRIED UP RIVER.

THERE'S LOTS AND LOTS OF ROCKS AROUND.

AH, EXCELLENT. LOOK AT THAT.

THIS IS AN UROPYGID OR WHIP SCORPION.

Narrator: THE NEAREST THING TO A SPIDER WITHOUT BEING ONE.

AS YOU CAN SEE, EIGHT LEGS, TWO MODIFIED APPENDAGES AT THE FRONT, AN ENORMOUS PAIR OF CRUSHING CLAWS.

SO AS CREEPY-CRAWLIES GO, THIS IS ABOUT THE CREEPIEST AND CRAWLIEST, I THINK, I'VE EVER SEEN.

WHAT WE'RE GOING TO TRY AND DO IS TO SHOW WHAT HER DEFENSE MECHANISM IS BECAUSE IT'S SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT SPECIAL.

OKAY, IN YOU GO, SWEETHEART.

Narrator: MARTIN'S USING TOXIC CHEMICALS, A MIXTURE OF POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE AND PHENOLPHTHALEIN.

Nicholas: NOW, THIS REACTS TO THE PRESENCE OF ACID.

WE TAKE OUR VOLUNTEER WHIP SCORPION... AND WE PUT HER ON THE INDICATOR PAPER.

AND WE'RE GOING TO SEE IF WE CAN GET HER TO DEMONSTRATE... HER DEFENSIVE MECHANISM.

LOOK AT THAT, LOOK AT THAT.

OH, WOW.

AH!

IT SMELLS LIKE THE MOST CONCENTRATED VINEGAR... THAT YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE.

LOOK AT THAT, LOOK AT THAT.

SEE THOSE WHITE SPOTS?

THAT'S ACETIC ACID.

Narrator: BASICALLY VINEGAR.

THE HOUSEHOLD VINEGAR THAT WE HAVE AND THAT WE USE IN OUR COOKING IS ABOUT 5% CONCENTRATION.

THE ACETIC ACID PRODUCED BY THE HERE IS ABOUT 84%. AND IF I WAS A PREDATORY ANIMAL AND WENT ALONG TO TRY AND BITE THIS WHIP SCORPION, AND GOT A MOUTHFUL OF THAT, OR A FACE FULL OF THAT, OR WORSE, AN EYE FULL OF THAT, OH, I CAN'T IMAGINE.

PUT THAT ON YOUR FISH AND CHIPS.

THAT IS AN INCREDIBLE DEFENSIVE ADAPTATION.

I WONDER WHAT SPIDER-MAN WOULD HAVE DONE WITH SOME POWERS LIKE THAT.

Narrator: MARTIN SEARCHES USING A HUMAN'S PRIMARY SENSE -- HIS EYES.

SPIDER-MAN'S VISION DIDN'T IMPROVE AFTER HIS SPIDER BITE, BUT IT MIGHT HAVE IF THIS SPIDER HAD BITTEN HIM.

Nicholas: THIS IS A JUMPING SPIDER.

THESE LITTLE SPIDERS ARE ONES THAT EVEN AN ARACHNOPHOBE DON'T FIND TOO SCARY BECAUSE THEY DO HAVE QUITE A FRIENDLY LITTLE FACE.

THEY HAVE ALMOST PERFECT OPTICS.

Narrator: ITS PREY ONLY HAS TWO EYES.

BUT THE SPIDER'S GOT EIGHT.

THE FIRST PAIR OF EYES ARE PERIPHERAL VISION.

EITHER SIDE LIKE THIS, INCREDIBLY SENSITIVE TO MOVEMENT.

SO IF ANYTHING MOVES OVER HERE... OR OVER THERE, THEY'RE LIKE THIS AND LIKE THIS.

THEY CAN IMMEDIATELY SWIVEL ROUND TO STARE AT IT WITH THEIR TWO MAIN PAIR OF BINOCULAR-VISION EYES.

Narrator: THEY CAN LEAP 30 TIMES THEIR BODY LENGTH.

THAT'S LIKE US LONG-JUMPING 150 FEET.

BUT THE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE BINOCULAR ONES.

THEY WORK A BIT LIKE THIS.

MAGNIFYING BINOCULAR VISION.

THESE WORK IN COOPERATION WITH THE OTHER EYES AND MAKE THESE FANTASTIC LITTLE HUNTERS.

ADMITTEDLY, THEY DON'T LOOK AS MUCH OF AN IDIOT IN THESE THINGS AS I DO.

Narrator: WITH ALL THOSE EYES, ITS PREY HASN'T A HOPE.

WITH NIGHTFALL, THE TUCSON BLOND TARANTULA DISPLAYS A SENSE SIMILAR TO ONE OF SPIDER-MAN'S -- THE ABILITY TO DETECT THINGS MOVING THAT SHE CAN'T SEE.

EVEN DOWN IN HER BURROW, SHE CAN ACTUALLY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE APPROACH OF A PREY ANIMAL AND A MALE TARANTULA HOPING TO MATE.

MARTIN'S GOING TO FIND OUT HOW SHE DOES IT.

BUT FIRST, HE NEEDS TO FIND AN UNSUSPECTING MALE.

AND THE BEST WAY OF DOING THAT IS TO DRIVE REALLY SLOWLY AND WATCH FOR THEM CROSSING THE ROADS IN FRONT OF US IN THE LIGHT OF OUR BEAM HERE.

AND THERE'S ONE, THERE'S ONE THERE.

LOOK AT HIS FANGS COMING OUT.

HE WANTS TO NIP ME.

STAY. EXCELLENT.

TARANTULA FOOTSTEPS ARE ACTUALLY COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY SILENT TO US.

BUT TO A FEMALE, THEY'RE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR THE MATING PROCESS.

WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IS TAKE YOU INTO THE WORLD OF SPIDER VIBRATION AND THEIR FOOTSTEPS AND SEE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE FOR A FEMALE LISTENING TO A MALE COMING A-CALLING.

Narrator: TIME FOR MORE GOODIES FROM MARTIN'S BAG OF TRICKS.

Nicholas: WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IS INSERT THIS EXTREMELY SENSITIVE MICROPHONE INSIDE THE BALLOON.

AND THE BALLOON IS HOPEFULLY GOING TO ACT AS AN AMPLIFIER FOR THE SOUNDS THAT THE SPIDERS HEAR THAT WE WOULDN'T NORMALLY BE ABLE TO.

NOW COMES THE TRICKY BIT.

THE MICROPHONE'S IN, AND WE'RE GOOD TO GO.

MAKE SURE THE BALLOON DOESN'T BURST.

WHAT I'M GOING TO DO IS LINK UP MY EARPHONES TO THE MICROPHONE SO I'LL BE ABLE TO HEAR, AND SO WILL YOU, WHAT THE SPIDER'S FOOTSTEPS SOUND LIKE.

Narrator: MARTIN WON'T HEAR EXACTLY LIKE A FEMALE TARANTULA BECAUSE SHE SENSE VIBRATIONS THROUGH SOLID GROUND.

BUT HE'LL HEAR SOMETHING SIMILAR.

[ SPIDER'S FOOTSTEPS DRUMMING ] THAT'S FANTASTIC.

IT'S LITTLE TICKTOCKS AS IT MOVES.

THAT'S INCREDIBLE.

HEARING THAT FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME... THE SOUND OF THEIR FOOTFALLS AND HOW IT MUST SOUND TO A FEMALE TARANTULA DOWN THE BURROW.

IF I WAS A FEMALE TARANTULA, WELL, I'D BE CHARMED ANYWAY.

THAT WAS SPECIAL, EXCELLENT.

Narrator: WITH SUCH SENSITIVITY, THE FEMALE HAS NO TROUBLE DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN A MOTH AND A MALE TARANTULA.

SO A MALE'S FOOTFALLS SHOULD ELICIT A MATING RESPONSE, NOT A PREDATORY ONE, AS MARTIN HOPES TO SEE.

Nicholas: GOT TO DO THIS VERY GENTLY.

RIGHT, THE FEMALE'S BURROW, JUST HERE.

SHE'S NOT VISIBLE NEAR THE SURFACE.

SO WE'LL STICK AROUND FOR A WHILE AND SEE WHAT COMES BY.

Narrator: HE DOESN'T HAVE TO WAIT LONG.

Nicholas: IN THE DARKNESS OVER THERE, I THINK I CAN SEE A MALE COMING.

YEAH, HERE HE COMES.

THE MALE TARANTULAS FIND THE FEMALES' BURROWS BY THE USE OF PHEROMONES.

AND THAT'S HOW THIS PARTICULAR LITTLE MALE HAS FOUND OUR FEMALE'S BURROW.

THERE, THE FIRST FOOT TAP.

THE VIBRATIONS, REMEMBER?

THERE.

HE'S DRUMMING WITH HIS PALPS, AND BEAR IN MIND THE SENSITIVITY OF THE FEMALE DEEP DOWN IN THE EARTH.

SHE'LL BE ABLE TO FEEL THIS.

AND IF SHE'S RESPONSIVE, SHE'LL START DRUMMING BACK.

THIS WILL ENCOURAGE THE MALE FURTHER.

HERE SHE COMES.

THAT WAS SLIGHTLY AGGRESSIVE.

ISN'T SHE GORGEOUS?

SHE'S A REAL BLONDE BOMBSHELL.

SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY IS HAPPENING.

THE FEMALE IS ACTUALLY SILKING UP THE MOUTH OF THE BURROW TO PREVENT THE MALE FROM ENTERING.

THIS COULD PROBABLY MEAN THAT SHE'S PERHAPS ALREADY GRAVID, OR FULL OF EGGS.

POSSIBLY THAT SHE'S ABOUT TO MOLT HER SKIN.

OR PERHAPS SIMPLY HE'S JUST NOT HER TYPE.

BUT EITHER WAY, IT'S PREVENTING THE MALE FROM GOING DOWN THE BURROW.

AND SHE'S NOT RESPONDING SEXUALLY AT ALL TO HIS ADVANCES.

HE HAS HIS FOOT ACTUALLY POISED ON THE OUTSIDE SILK WHERE SHE'S SILKED IT UP OVER.

YOU'VE GOT TO GIVE THIS GUY 10 OUT OF 10 FOR TRYING.

WHOA!

SHE'S OUT.

OH, DEAR, THIS IS NOT MATING.

OUR POOR LITTLE MALE HAS GOT TWO FANGS SUNK INTO THE BACK OF HIS HEAD.

THAT'S GOT TO HURT, I DON'T CARE WHERE YOU'RE FROM.

THAT HAPPENED SO FAST.

SO I'M AFRAID THIS MALE GOT HIS FEMALE, BUT PROBABLY NOT IN THE WAY THAT HE WAS HOPING.

I THINK THE TRIGGER TO THIS WAS THAT THE MALE ACTUALLY PULLED ASIDE THE SILKEN CURTAIN WHERE THE FEMALE HAD WEBBED UP ACROSS THE ENTRANCE.

SHE IS CERTAINLY NOT IN THE MOOD FOR MATING.

SHE'S GOING TO DRAG THE UNFORTUNATE MALE BACK DOWN UNDER THE EARTH TO FINISH OFF IN PEACE.

IT'S INTERESTING THAT ADULT MALES ARE SEXUALLY RESPONSIVE ALL THE TIME.

ADULT FEMALES JUST SEASONALLY.

IT'S A BIT OF A LOTTERY FOR THE MALE TO FIND THE FEMALE THAT ACCEPTS HIM AS A MATE.

THERE HE GOES.

THAT WAS INCREDIBLE.

I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT AT ALL.

Narrator: MAYBE THIS IS HOW SPIDER-MAN WOULD HAVE BEHAVED IF HE HAD ACTUALLY BEEN CALLED SPIDER-LADY.

MARTIN'S LEAVING ARIZONA, WHERE HE'S DEMONSTRATED THAT REAL SPIDERS SHARE SPIDER-MAN'S SENSITIVITY TO MOVEMENT, AND HE'S FOUND TWO SUPER POWERS SPIDER-MAN DIDN'T HAVE... ACID SPRAYING AND TELESCOPIC VISION.

MARTIN'S NEXT STOP IS SOUTHERN MEXICO.

HE'S AFTER A COMPLETELY BLIND SPIDER WITH AN UNCANNY ABILITY TO FIND ITS WAY AROUND IN TOTAL DARKNESS.

SOME STRANGE SENSE MUST HAVE REPLACED ITS POWER OF SIGHT.

MEXICO IS HOME TO ONE OF THE RAREST AND MOST BIZARRE TARANTULAS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

HERE'S WHAT THE GUY WHO FOUND IT WROTE ABOUT IT.

'A PALLID LONG-LEGGED TROGLODYTE 'WAS FOUND MOVING ABOUT ON A CLAY BANK DEEP WITHIN THE RIO SAN ANTONIO CAVE SYSTEM.'

ONLY A HANDFUL OF SCIENTISTS HAVE EVER SEEN THIS CAVE TARANTULA ALIVE, AND I'M DESPERATE TO BE ONE OF THEM.

IT REALLY IS AN AMBITION OF MINE.

Narrator: ON HIS WAY TO FIND THE CAVES, MARTIN'S LOOKING OUT FOR A SPIDER THAT SPINS A REMARKABLE KIND OF SILK.

IT'S LIKE THE STUFF THAT SPIDER-MAN TRAPS HIS ENEMIES IN.

NOW, THEY LIKE TO SLING THEIR WEBS BETWEEN THE TREES AND EVEN FENCE POSTS ALONG THE SIDES OF THE ROAD.

AND THE BEST WAY TO LOOK FOR THEM IS LIKE THIS.

Narrator: YOU NEED EYESIGHT A BIT LIKE A JUMPING SPIDER TO SPOT A WEB FROM A MOVING CAR.

I THINK WE'VE GOT ONE.

AND HERE'S EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR, THE GOLDEN ORB-WEAVING SPIDER.

A WEB LIKE THIS WILL STOP A BEE DEAD IN ITS TRACKS IF IT WAS TRAVELING AT 30 KILOMETERS AN HOUR.

THESE WEBS HAVE EVEN BEEN KNOWN TO CATCH SMALL BIRDS, BATS.

THE SILK, IF IT WAS WOUND UP IN A THREAD AS THICK AS MY THUMB, WOULD BE STRONG ENOUGH TO LIFT A JUMBO JET OFF THE RUNWAY.

WHO'S TRIED THIS, I'M NOT SURE.

IN INDONESIA, THEY ACTUALLY WRAP THESE WEBS AROUND A LARGE BAMBOO RING AND GO FISHING WITH THEM.

AND YOU CAN SEE WHY, IT'S LIKE NYLON MESH.

INCREDIBLY TOUGH MATERIAL.

AND A BEAUTIFUL SPIDER AS WELL.

WITH ITS STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY, SILK IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT STAN LEE GOT EXACTLY RIGHT WHEN HE WAS WRITING 'SPIDER-MAN.'

RIGHT, A SHORT DEMONSTRATION OF JUST HOW TOUGH THIS STUFF REALLY IS.

TABLE TENNIS BALL.

SO A GOOD DEMONSTRATION OF MY CATCHING SKILLS.

THIS STUFF IS SO TOUGH.

I COULD THROW THIS AS HARD AS I LIKE, IT WOULD NOT GET THROUGH THIS WEB.

AND IT'S CAUGHT IT AS WELL.

CAN I HAVE MY BALL BACK?

Narrator: OF COURSE THE SPIDER USES THE WEB TO CATCH PREY LIKE BUTTERFLIES.

THE BUTTERFLY STRUGGLES, AND THE SPIDER SENSES THE VIBRATIONS.

THE SPIDER BITES ITS VICTIM AND INJECTS VENOM.

SHE SPINS SUPER STRONG SILK AND WRAPS THE BUTTERFLY UP... HANGS IT OFF THE WEB, AND PREPARES TO EAT.

NOW SHE PUMPS POWERFUL ENZYMES INTO THE PACKAGE AND SUCKS UP THE SEMI-DIGESTED LIQUID.

BACK ON THE HUNT FOR THE CAVE TARANTULA, MARTIN MEETS UP WITH CAVER PETER SPROUSE.

THIS LOOKS LIKE THE RIGHT AREA.

THIS IS THE AREA THEY MENTION IN THE PAPER?

RIGHT, THAT HILL OVER THERE IS JUST RIDDLED WITH CAVES.

EXCELLENT.

[ SPEAKING SPANISH ] HE'S GOING TO SHOW US? YEAH.

EXCELLENT, ALL RIGHT.

WE'VE HIT ROCK. YEAH, THIS LOOKS LIKE IT.

WE'VE CERTAINLY HIT LIMESTONE.

OH, YEAH, THERE'S AN ENTRANCE HERE.

THAT LOOKS ENTERABLE.

IT'S REALLY STEEP.

YEAH.

IS IT LIKELY TO BE FLOODED DOWN THERE?

Peter: YEAH, WE'LL PROBABLY END UP GETTING A BIT WET, I EXPECT. OKAY.

WE MIGHT END UP SWIMMING A BIT.

LET'S SEE HOW IT GOES.

AS LONG AS WE FIND THE SPIDERS.

Narrator: THESE CAVES ARE THE ONLY PLACE ON EARTH WHERE THESE BLIND SPIDERS LIVE.

Nicholas: SPECTACULAR CAVE, THOUGH.

YES, THEY CALL THESE CHERT NODULES.

CHERT NODULES. STICKING OUT OF THE WALL.

GOOD NAME.

AND THEY'RE FLINT PRESUMABLY? YES.

HAVEN'T FOUND ANY SPIDERS YET.

AND THESE CAVES GO BACK FOR MILES.

IT'S NOT QUITE A NEEDLE-IN-A-HAYSTACK TIME.

BUT IT'S GETTING CLOSE.

Narrator: THEY FIND A PASSABLE TUNNEL.

Nicholas: OOH, WHAT'S THIS?

Narrator: AND A DEEP CAVE CREATURES.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT? LOOK AT THAT.

BLIND CRAYFISH.

LOOK AT THAT, NO EYES.

NO EYES WHATSOEVER.

COOL LITTLE CREATURE.

CLASSIC PALLID COLORING FOR LIVING DOWN IN CAVES, ISN'T IT?

NO PIGMENT WHATSOEVER.

AND THE REASON THEY HAVE NO COLOR IS, OF COURSE, BECAUSE IF THEY HAVEN'T GOT EYES, THERE'S NO NEED TO HAVE COLOR.

NO NEED TO CAMOUFLAGE THEMSELVES.

NO NEED FOR COURTSHIP COLORS.

OF COURSE.

HE'S GOT THESE BIG, LONG ANTENNAE.

FEELING HIS WAY AROUND IN THE WATER.

FEELING AWAY AROUND, YEAH.

EVERYTHING DONE BY TOUCH.

HE'S GOT MY HAND.

HE'S GOT ME WITH BOTH CLAWS.

I BELIEVE IN WRESTLING THAT'S CALLED A FULL NELSON RIGHT THERE.

FAB LITTLE CREATURE.

I THINK WE'VE BOTHERED THIS GUY ENOUGH TODAY.

LET'S POP HIM BACK.

Narrator: THE BLIND CRAYFISH IS A POSITIVE SIGN.

MARTIN AND PETER MOVE DEEPER INTO THE CAVE.

THEY SCOUR THE CAVE WALLS.

FINALLY.

Peter: MARTIN, I THINK I'VE FOUND ONE.

Nicholas: OH, MY WORD.

GOODNESS LOOK AT THAT.

WOW!

DEFINITELY A TARANTULA, VERY, VERY PALE.

IT'S SO DIFFERENT FROM THE SURFACE-DWELLING SPIDERS.

I CAN'T BELIEVE WE'VE FOUND ONE.

IN THE LIGHT, EVEN THOUGH IT HAS NO COLORS, THE HAIRS ARE LIKE A COPPERY-BRONZE COLOR.

AT FIRST GLANCE THIS DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A TARANTULA AT ALL.

IT'S VERY, VERY THIN AND LEGGY.

LOOKS ALMOST LIKE THE SORT OF SPIDER YOU'D FIND IN YOUR BATH.

HERE'S A SPIDER THAT SPENDS ITS ENTIRE LIFE IN ABSOLUTE DARKNESS.

IT RELIES COMPLETELY ON ITS SENSE OF TOUCH.

THE WHOLE BODY IS COVERED WITH INCREDIBLY FINE HAIRS.

AND YOU CAN SEE THAT EVEN IN THE VERY SLIGHT AIR MOVEMENT THAT'S COMING IN BEHIND ME, THE HAIRS ARE WAVING AROUND LIKE THIS.

SHE'LL BE ABLE TO TELL NOT ONLY THE DIRECTION OF THE AIR MOVEMENT BUT PROBABLY WHAT CAUSED IT AS WELL.

SO ME JUST MOVING MY HAND LIKE THAT, IT'LL BE ABLE TO FEEL THAT.

SOMETHING TAPPING THE ROCK, IT'LL FEEL THAT AS WELL THROUGH THE SOLES OF ITS FEET.

IT'S AN IDEAL ADAPTATION FOR LIFE IN COMPLETE AND TOTAL DARKNESS.

NO EYES, DOESN'T NEED THEM.

THERE'S NO LIGHT DOWN HERE WHATSOEVER.

SHE'LL JUST RUN AROUND OVER THE SURFACE OF THESE CAVE WALLS LOOKING FOR PREY.

IT IS INCREDIBLE TO THINK THAT I'M THIS CLOSE TO ONE OF THE RAREST SPIDERS ON EARTH.

THEY'RE ONLY FOUND IN THIS CAVE SYSTEM.

UNBELIEVABLE.

I'M GOING TO SEE WHAT REACTION I GET IF I TRY AND MOVE HER ONTO MY HANDS.

SHE MAY GO FLYING UP THE WALL.

BUT LET'S HAVE A TRY, JUST GENTLY.

I NEVER EVER THOUGHT I'D BE DOING THIS, HOLDING ONE OF THE RAREST TARANTULAS ON EARTH.

SHE'S SO GENTLE.

OH, SHE'S FANTASTIC.

LET'S POP HER BACK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRINGING ME DOWN HERE.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.

ALL RIGHT.

I TELL YOU, HALF A MILE UNDERGROUND LOOKING FOR A SMALL, BROWN, BLIND TARANTULA.

I'M MUDDY.

I'M WET THROUGH. MY BOOTS ARE FULL OF WATER.

I'VE BEEN MUGGED BY A CRAYFISH.

BUT I WOULDN'T MISS THIS FOR THE WORLD, I TELL YOU.

Narrator: MARTIN'S MEXICAN ADVENTURE IS OVER.

HE'S FOUND SILK TO MATCH SPIDER-MAN'S AND HE'S TRACKED DOWN A SPIDER WITH THE ABILITY TO LIVE IN TOTAL DARKNESS, SOMETHING SPIDER-MAN MIGHT HAVE FOUND USEFUL.

HIS FINAL DESTINATION IS THE SOUTH AMERICAN JUNGLE.

HE'S ARRIVED IN CAYENNE, CAPITAL CITY OF FRENCH GUIANA.

HE'S HEARD ABOUT SOME EXTRAORDINARY SPIDERS IN THE JUNGLE.

TOP OF THE LIST IS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST, THE GOLIATH TARANTULA.

BUT THEY MAY BE HARDER TO FIND IN THE WILD THAN HE'D HOPED.

YEAH, WHEN I SAID I WANTED TO COME TO FRENCH GUIANA TO FIND THE GOLIATH BIRD-EATER, THIS WASN'T EXACTLY WHAT I HAD IN MIND.

WE'VE BEEN UP AND DOWN THE STREET HERE, AND THERE ARE LOADS OF SOUVENIR SHOPS.

AND THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF GOLIATH BIRD-EATERS IN LITTLE BOXES LIKE THIS.

I'M BEGINNING TO THINK THAT IT'S GOING TO BE QUITE DIFFICULT FINDING THEM IN THE WILD IF THEY'RE ALL SITTING OUT HERE.

YOU SEE THE PROBLEM WITH THESE IS NOT, IT'S NOT THE PEOPLE THAT COLLECT THEM, IT'S NOT THE PEOPLE WHO PRESERVE THEM, IT'S NOT EVEN THE SHOPS THAT SELL THEM.

THE PROBLEM IS WITH US, THE PEOPLE WHO BUY THEM.

THEY LOOK A LOT NICER IN THE WILD, YOU KNOW.

PLEASE DON'T BUY THESE.

Narrator: TO HAVE ANY HOPE OF FINDING A WILD GOLIATH, MARTIN MUST HEAD DEEP INTO THE JUNGLE, NOT DIFFICULT IN A COUNTRY THAT'S 80% RAINFOREST.

MARTIN'S LOOKING FOR A BURROW THAT MIGHT HOLD A GOLIATH, BUT IT'S DIFFICULT FINDING BURROWS BIG ENOUGH.

Nicholas: AH, THIS LOOKS MORE LIKE IT.

YEAH, THIS IS MUCH MORE THE SORT OF THING THAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR.

BIG CIRCULAR HOLE.

GOLIATH DOESN'T BUILD ITS OWN BURROWS BECAUSE HE'S GOT NOTHING TO BUILD THEM WITH.

SO IT MAKES USE OF EITHER DISUSED RODENT BURROWS OR THE BURROWS MADE BY THINGS LIKE LAND CRABS.

RIGHT, LET'S SEE WHAT'S DOWN THERE.

Narrator: TIME FOR MARTIN'S HIGH-TECH PROBE.

TARANTULA CAM IS AN OLD FRIEND, A MIRACLE OF PRECISION ENGINEERING AND DUCT TAPE.

AND THIS TIME WITH A LITTLE INNOVATION, AND THAT'S THE MICROPHONE.

THIS IS THE LIGHT, ALLOWS US TO SEE DOWN INTO THE DARK OF THE BURROW.

THE CAMERA PART, RECORDING BACK TO THE VIDEO CAMERA.

AND, OF COURSE, THE THE LOW-RIDER.

Narrator: IS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST SPIDER DOWN THIS HOLE?

IT BENDS.

IT'S VERY DEEP.

BUT I CAN'T SEE ANY SIGNS OF SHED EXOSKELETON OR INSECT PARTS FROM PREVIOUS MEALS.

THERE'S CERTAINLY NO SILK DOWN THERE.

AND THERE'S NO SIGNS AROUND THAT IT'S BEEN THERE RECENTLY.

IT'S POSSIBLE THAT IT'S BEEN CAUGHT AND EATEN BY SOMETHING.

IT'S POSSIBLE THAT IT JUST GOT UP AND MOVED, JUST WANDERED OFF.

OR, WORST CASE SCENARIO, IT'S BEEN COLLECTED, DROPPED IN A BUCKET OF ALCOHOL, AND SET INTO A GLASS FRAME.

I HOPE IT'S NOT THAT.

IT'S A PITY.

THE HUNT CONTINUES.

Narrator: MARTIN'S SEARCH TAKES HIM ACROSS THE WETTEST PART OF THE FOREST.

Nicholas: DOWN HERE IN THE FLOODED FOREST THERE ARE NO TERRESTRIAL TARANTULAS FOR VERY OBVIOUS REASONS.

THIS AREA FLOODS FOR ABOUT 8 MONTHS OF THE YEAR.

WHAT THEY DO HAVE HERE, THOUGH, ARE THESE, THE PINK-TOED TARANTULA, A TREE-DWELLING, ARBOREAL SPIDER.

THEY HAVE DEVELOPED AN INCREDIBLE DEFENSIVE MECHANISM.

IF THEY'RE APPROACHED BY A PREDATOR COMING ALONG THE BRANCH TOWARDS THEM, THEY QUITE SIMPLY THROW THEMSELF OFF INTO SPACE, AND THEY FLOAT DOWN A LITTLE BIT LIKE A THISTLE DOWN, ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FOREST FLOOR, OR IN THIS CASE ONTO THE SURFACE OF THE WATER.

AND I THINK WE COULD PROBABLY GIVE A VERY GOOD DEMONSTRATION OF IT WITH MY LITTLE FRIEND HERE.

NEAT TRICK.

THE REASON A BIG SPIDER LIKE THIS DOESN'T SINK IS BECAUSE ITS BODY IS COVERED WITH FINE HAIRS, AND THESE REPEL WATER, SO THE SPIDER JUST FLOATS LIKE A RAFT.

AND ALL IT HAS TO DO IS PADDLE.

IT'S THE PERFECT ADAPTATION TO LIVE IN THIS FLOODED FOREST, A JUMPING TARANTULA THAT SWIMS.

I'M NOT SURE IF SPIDER-MAN EVER ACTUALLY NEEDED TO SWIM, BUT IF HE DID, HE COULD TAKE A LEAF OUT OF THIS LITTLE GUY'S BOOK.

WOW, THIS TREE'S VICIOUS.

LOOK AT THE SPINES ON THIS.

GOT TO BE CAREFUL HERE.

Narrator: SPIDERS ARE USUALLY SOLITARY, AND YOU MUST FIND THEM ONE BY ONE.

BUT MARTIN'S FOUND THE EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE.

Nicholas: THIS IS THE COMMUNAL SPIDER.

AND IT MAKES GIGANTIC WEBS.

LIKE SO MANY OF THE OTHER SPIDERS THAT I'VE FOUND, THESE SPIDERS RELY VERY, VERY HEAVILY ON THEIR SENSE OF TOUCH AND VIBRATION AND THE FEEL OF MOVEMENT THROUGH THE WEB.

TO ILLUSTRATE THAT, WE'RE GOING TO USE THIS, WHICH IS A TUNING FORK.

NOW, THIS ACTUALLY SIMULATES THE WING BEAT VIBRATIONS OF A LARGE INSECT, LIKE A BEE, FLYING INTO THE WEB.

LET'S SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

[ TUNING FORK RINGS ] HERE THEY COME.

THEY'RE ALL PILING IN.

THEY'RE ALL COMING UP OVER THE TOP OF THE WEB.

HUNDREDS OF THEM.

THAT'S UNBELIEVABLE, BUT THAT'S EXACTLY HOW THEY CATCH THEIR PREY.

AS SOON AS SOMETHING GETS CAUGHT IN THE THREADS OF THIS HUGE WEB, ALL THE SPIDERS FEEL THE VIBRATIONS THROUGH THE THREADS, UP THEIR LEGS, AND THEY GO PILING IN.

THAT REALLY WORKS.

LET GO, LET GO.

THANK YOU.

SORRY, CHAPS, NO FOOD THIS TIME.

Narrator: BEING SOCIAL, THESE SPIDERS GANG UP AND OVERWHELM MUCH BIGGER PREY THAN INDIVIDUAL SPIDERS COULD EVER TACKLE.

IF STAN LEE HAD KNOWN ABOUT THIS, HE MIGHT HAVE CREATED WHOLE ARMIES OF SPIDER-MEN.

MEANWHILE BACK ON THE HUNT FOR THE GIANT SPIDER.

Nicholas: I'VE FOUND ANOTHER VERY PROMISING-LOOKING BURROW.

THERE'S LOTS OF TELLTALE SILK AROUND THE OUTSIDE, AND IT'S ON A RAISED HUMMOCK UP AWAY FROM THE FOREST FLOOR, TYPICAL GOLIATH.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AND SEE IF ANYTHING LIVES DOWN THERE.

OHH.

DEEP BURROW.

DEFINITELY A TARANTULA BURROW.

THERE'S SILK ALL THE WAY DOWN IT.

HMM.

I THINK THAT'S THE END OF THE BURROW.

AND THERE'S NOTHING.

IT'S A SHAME -- THAT WAS A VERY PROMISING BURROW.

Narrator: MARTIN'S SEARCH FOR THE GOLIATH HAS BEEN FRUITLESS, AND HE MAY NEED HELP TOMORROW.

BUT BEFORE HE GOES TO BED, HE CHECKS TO SEE WHAT'S LURKING IN THE DARKNESS.

HE STUMBLES ON AN OLD ADVERSARY SITTING ON AN EGG SAC.

Nicholas: YEAH, I THOUGHT I'D FIND THESE HERE.

THE MOST DANGEROUS SPIDER IN THE WORLD.

THE BRAZILIAN WANDERING SPIDER.

IT HAS VENOM ABOUT 18 TIMES MORE DEADLY THAN THAT OF THE BLACK WIDOW, 10 TIMES MORE DEADLY THAN THAT OF THE BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER.

THEY'RE EXCEPTIONALLY AGGRESSIVE.

THAT'S WHY I'M BEING VERY, VERY CAREFUL.

AND THAT'S WHY THE ADRENALINE IS PUMPING THROUGH MY VEINS AT THE MOMENT.

BECAUSE THEY'RE SO AGGRESSIVE, MOVEMENT NEAR THEM PROVOKES A DEFENSIVE RESPONSE.

FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU'RE SWEEPING UP WITH A BROOM AND SWEEP ALONG THE GROUND AND ACCIDENTALLY DISTURB ONE OF THESE, THEY'VE BEEN KNOWN TO RUN UP THE BROOM STICK AT THE HAND THAT'S SWEEPING.

A LOT OF BITES OCCURRED LIKE THAT.

A FRIEND OF MINE WAS BITTEN BY A WANDERING SPIDER.

IT HID IN HIS TROUSERS, WOULD YOU BELIEVE?

NOTHING HAPPENED FOR A LITTLE WHILE WHEN HE PUT HIS TROUSERS ON, BUT LATER ON THAT DAY, HE CROSSED A STREAM, AND AS HE DID SO, THE WATER PRESSURE PRESSED THE TROUSERS IN, AND THE SPIDER BIT HIM ON THE UPPER LEG.

HIS DESCRIPTION WAS OF HIS SCREAM, THAT IT WAS SO HIGH PITCHED THAT ONLY DOGS COULD HAVE HEARD IT.

HE GOT RUSHED TO HOSPITAL, AND THEY GAVE HIM THE ANTI-VENOM, AND HE'S OKAY NOW.

LET'S SEE IF WE CAN PROVOKE THIS DEFENSIVE RESPONSE.

I DON'T WANT TO DISTURB HER TOO MUCH AS SHE'S LOOKING AFTER HER EGG SAC.

I'M GOING TO HAVE TO MOVE FAST IF SHE DOES TAKE EXCEPTION TO THIS.

THE FANGS ARE OUT.

AH, THERE, GOT HOLD OF IT.

SHE GRABS ON AND SHE DIGS HER FANGS IN.

SHE MEANS IT.

OH, DEAR.

I'M SO GLAD THAT WASN'T MY FINGER.

REMEMBER WHAT I SAID ABOUT BROOMSTICKS?

THIS IS A BIT SHORTER THAN A BROOMSTICK.

AND NOW SHE'S LOOKING AT ME.

I HAVE MORE RESPECT FOR THIS ANIMAL THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER SPIDER THAT I'VE COME INTO CONTACT WITH.

I THINK IF STAN LEE WANTED TO CREATE THE ULTIMATE NEMESIS FOR SPIDER-MAN, HE COULD DO A LOT WORSE THAN USING THE WANDERING SPIDER AS A ROLE MODEL.

Narrator: THE NEXT MORNING, MARTIN SEEKS OUT LOCAL HELP TO TRACK DOWN THE GOLIATH TARANTULA.

HE'S BEEN TOLD TO FIND A MAN NAMED FRANK.

Nicholas: TELL ME, FRANK, WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO TAKE ME OUT INTO THE FOREST TO SHOW ME WHERE THE BIG TARANTULA, THE LIVES?

IF YOU WANT SEE, I CAN BRING YOU MAYBE TOMORROW.

THAT WOULD BE GREAT.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

WE HAVE AN EXPERT GUIDE. EXCELLENT.

Narrator: IT MAY BE THE WORLD'S BIGGEST SPIDER, BUT IT'S HIDING IN THE WORLD'S BIGGEST JUNGLE.

IT'S REALLY TOUGH GOING.

WE'RE ABOUT THREE HOURS IN, AND IF I DIDN'T HAVE FRANKLIN WITH ME, I THINK I'D HAVE BEEN LOST BY NOW.

Narrator: THE GOLIATH IS TRULY A FORMIDABLE SPIDER.

WHEN DISTURBED, BIG TARANTULAS RELEASE CLOUDS OF HAIRS THAT GET STUCK IN THE SOFT TISSUES OF THE EYES AND NOSE, CAUSING INTENSE IRRITATION.

IT'S THERE, INSIDE THE TREE?

LET'S HAVE A LOOK.

I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE GO INTO THE BASE OF A ROTTEN TREE LIKE THIS.

RIGHT, LET'S GET TARANTULA-CAM OUT.

TESTING, TWO, THREE.

OKAY, HERE WE GO.

IS THAT?

I THINK THAT'S A FOOT.

THAT IS -- THAT'S A LEG.

THERE'S HER ABDOMEN.

THERE'S HER LEGS.

OH, SHE'S TURNING.

WHAT A MONSTER.

LOOK AT THOSE LONG LEGS.

I THINK THIS IS A VERY, VERY BIG SPIDER INDEED.

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL HOW BIG SHE IS.

BUT SHE DWARFS TARANTULA-CAM THAT'S FOR SURE.

OH.

DID YOU HEAR THAT?

[ HISSING ] DID YOU HEAR THAT STRIDULATING?

THIS IS ONE OF THEIR PRIMARY DEFENSES.

THEY HAVE VERY, VERY THICK-SET HAIRS ON EITHER SIDE OF THEIR LEGS, AND THEY RUB THESE TOGETHER.

IT SOUNDS LIKE FRYING BACON, IT SOUNDS LIKE A RATTLESNAKE.

AND IT SERVES EXACTLY THE SAME PURPOSE AS THE RATTLESNAKE'S RATTLE -- IT'S A WARNING.

[ HISSING ] SO LET'S IGNORE THE WARNING AND SEE WHAT SHE DOES.

SHE'S GIVEN ME FAIR WARNING AND SHE'S NOW BITTEN.

I'M SWEATING.

I THINK THE BURROW'S QUITE DEEP, BUT SHE'S DEFENDING IT WITH HER BODY AND HER FANGS.

SHE'S HISSING.

AND WHEN WE FIRST WENT DOWN THERE, SHE WAS KICKING HAIRS.

ALL DEFENSIVE MECHANISMS, ALL TELLING ME I'M COMPLETELY UNWELCOME HERE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, PLEASE LEAVE.

I'M GOING TO SEE IF I CAN TEASE HER OUT OFF THE BURROW USING MY FORCEPS VERY GENTLY.

WHOA!

SHE'S DOWN HERE.

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE SPIDER.

WHAT I'M GOING TO TRY AND DO... IS DO SOMETHING THAT'S CERTAINLY NOT RECOMMENDED.

AND THAT IS TO TRY AND PICK HER UP.

OH, MY WORD.

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D BE DOING THIS.

SHE'S KICKING HAIRS OFF.

THAT'S GOING TO ITCH LATER.

BUT LOOK AT THAT.

INCH-LONG FANGS.

THE BIGGEST ARACHNID ON THE PLANET.

THE GOLIATH BIRD-EATER.

WHY AM I HOLDING IT AGAIN?

HANDS ARE SHAKING.

THE FANGS -- THAT IS REALLY GOING TO HURT IF IT BITES YOU.

THE VENOM OF THIS SPIDER IS ONLY DEADLY TO SMALL PREY, BUT A SPIDER OF THIS SIZE WOULD CERTAINLY BE ABLE TO TAKE THINGS LIKE SMALL SNAKES, LIZARDS, EVEN A PASSING RODENT OF SOME DESCRIPTION.

WITH HER LEGS FULLY STRETCHED OUT, I'LL EXPECT HER TO BE ABOUT 9 INCHES ACROSS.

I GOT GIVEN A BOOK WHEN I WAS 5 YEARS OLD, AND IT HAD A LIFE-SIZE PICTURE OF THE GIANT TARANTULA IN THERE.

I THINK THAT'S PROBABLY WHAT HOOKED ME INTO SPIDERS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I'D NEVER HAVE BELIEVED 30-ODD YEARS LATER THAT I'D ACTUALLY BE HOLDING A GIANT TARANTULA IN THE WILD.

I KNOW NOT EVERYBODY MAY AGREE, BUT I THINK SHE'S GORGEOUS.

LET'S PUT HER BACK.

BACK HOME AGAIN.

SPIDER-MAN HAD SOME INCREDIBLE POWERS, BUT HOPEFULLY WE'VE SHOWN, WITH SOME OF THE SPIDERS THAT WE'VE SEEN, THAT THE NATURAL WORLD HAS A FEW SUPERHEROES OF ITS OWN.

Narrator: MARTIN'S MISSION IS OVER.

THE REAL POWERS OF SPIDERS WERE A SURPRISE FOR STAN LEE.

YOU KNOW, SPIDERS ARE PROBABLY THE MOST TALENTED ARACHNIDS OR ANIMALS THERE ARE.

YEAH, ABSOLUTELY.

NO WONDER YOU'RE SO INTERESTED IN THEM.

I MAY WANT TO GO BACK AND START SPIDER-MAN ALL OVER AGAIN BECAUSE I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE DONE HIM DIFFERENTLY.

PERHAPS THE NEXT TIME I TAKE A FIELD TRIP DOWN TO SEE SOME OF MY BIG 8-LEGGED FRIENDS, PERHAPS YOU'D LIKE TO COME ALONG.

WELL, IT DEPENDS WHERE THE DESTINATION IS.

I MEAN, IF YOU'RE DOING THAT IN SOME RARE, EXOTIC CARIBBEAN ISLAND, IT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA.

IF YOU WANT TO DO IT ON THE RIVIERA, IN PARTS OF PARIS, MAYBE ON THE LEFT BANK, YEAH, SURE.

IF IT'S IN SOME RIDICULOUS JUNGLE, I THINK THAT I'VE GOT AN APPOINTMENT THAT DAY.

[ LAUGHTER ] Narrator: WITHOUT STAN ON HIS NEXT TRIP, MARTIN WILL HAVE TO PROVIDE HIS OWN ENTERTAINMENT, JUST LIKE HE DID THIS TIME.

THERE COULD BE A SNAKE, A VENOMOUS SNAKE, LIKE AN ASP -- AN ASP?

YEAH, BECAUSE IT'S ON ITS HOLIDAY, ISN'T IT?

I SAID 'SUPERMAN.'

SORRY.

NO.

© 2023 WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.