"Predation of small vertebrates by arthropods has been documented in several lowland rainforest sites, yet our knowledge of these interactions remains limited, especially given the diversity of vertebrate prey and potential arthropod predators in species-rich tropical communities", the researchers explained in their paper.
In the Amazon rainforest, a team of researchers recorded spiders and other arthropods such as centipedes feasting on tadpoles, lizards, frogs, and, on one very memorable occasion, a tarantula the size of a dinner plate killing a young opossum and dragging it off to devour at leisure.
"The most common interaction we see is spiders eating other invertebrate prey such as crickets and moths", von May said.
"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Michael Grundler, a PhD student and contributing author, said in a statement.
It sounds like a line from a horror novel, but it's a description of what scientists experienced in the Amazon rainforest just before catching sight of a tarantula hauling an opossum off into the underbrush.
Spiders are extremely diverse predators and they are known to eat creatures from all the major vertebrate groups, including birds, mammals, reptiles and fish.
The encounter was one of the cases featured in an article published in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.More news: Pau Gasol tweets out message to Spurs fans amid buyout
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Researchers captured this "dinner plate"-sized tarantula eating a mouse opossum". According to researchers, while they knew that what they were witnessing was special, at the moment they were unaware that it was the first observation.
The team also collected the bodies of two snakes that succumbed to centipedes, including a venomous coral snake. In the article, they listed other extraordinary encounters, including a centipede eating a dead coral snake - one of the most unsafe reptiles on the planet.
"Coral snakes are very unsafe and can kill humans", another one of the research team, Joanna Larson, explained. "To see one taken down by an arthropod was very surprising".
"A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes", said University of MI associate professor Daniel Rabosky in the release. "Those centipedes are terrifying animals, actually".
Eight-legged predators have been seen " eating a surprising amount of vertebrates" in the Amazon, a new National Geographic study revealed.
Arachnologist Rick West said tarantulas typically prey on frogs, but added: "They are opportunistic feeders and they'll take whatever they can subdue".