When a small spider eats up a snake, it makes the news. This is what happened in Brazil when a Tarantula spider devoured a snake under a rock.
This surprised scientists at the Federal University of Santa Maria, who were searching for Tarantulas in Serra do Caverá in Southern Brazil, when they spotted the rare "dinner" live. The victim was an Almaden ground snake, which is about a foot in length.
The researchers saw the Tarantula — Grammostola quirogai — chomping down the snake — Erythrolamprus almadensis, and reported their observations in the journal Herpetology Notes.
Brazil's Serra do Caverá is known to house many species of Tarantula, particularly sedentary females that live in the rocks.
"Most likely, the snake was surprised upon entering the spider's environment and hence was subdued by it," said the researchers.
The study's first author Leandro Malta Borges, a graduate student at the Federal University who also witnessed the horrible dinner live, is credited with many papers in Herpetology Notes about lizards and amphibians being eaten up by bugs. Borges also studied Aglaoctenus oblongus, a spider that was seen eating up a tree frog.
According to Borges, the high surprise in the incident is the size of the snake versus the tiny size of the predator spider, which is just a fraction of the former.
The grisly discovery is perhaps the first ever recorded evidence of a Tarantula eating a snake in the wild.
"To the best of our knowledge, we present here the first documented case involving the predation of a snake by an individual of the Theraphosidae family in nature," the researchers noted.
The snake had a snout-vent length 390.60 mm with most damage to the middle and anterior regions of the victim's body. The snake's body was in a state of decomposition due to the extracorporeal digestion process executed by the arachnid.
Cases of captive Tarantulas occasionally eating snakes were reported in 1926 by Brazilian researchers Jehan Vellard and Vital Brazil.
"They eat pretty much anything they can grab and overpower," noted Chris Hamilton, a Tarantula expert, and researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
It is likely that the snake sneaked into the Tarantula's rock in a bid to use it as a den or simply slithered by it. The fatal attack of the Tarantula must have come from the less than an inch long fangs usually used in subduing preys.
When the researchers saw the spider, it was consuming the snake's body after liquefying it like a goo for making it more digestible.