A new study has found that invertebrates like spiders and centipedes eat an unexpectedly large number of vertebrates like frogs, snakes, and even a small opossum, in the Amazon. For instance, they observed several large spiders preying on frogs and lizards, and they even observed a large centipede eating a live Catesby's snail-eater snake and another centipede eating a coral snake it had already decapitated.
The encounter was one of the cases featured in an article published in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation.
"Any kind of predation event involving a vertebrate, whether it's a snake eating a frog or a bird eating a lizard - all of these are very rare", said Dan Rabosky, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of MI.
The opossum video is just one of a string of odd spider observations shared by a research team studying predator-prey interactions in a remote area of Peru. Many predators relied on paralyzing venom to trap their meal, while others used their large jaws to their advantage.
Although numerous encounters were brutal, the team said by far the most vicious and terrifying is that between the tarantula and the mouse opossum.
As well as spider attacks, the team also documented centipedes feasting on vertebrates.
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Over the years of charting life-and-death struggles between vertebrates and arthropods, the scientists had enough material to take the unusual a step of compiling a scientific paper, featuring 15 of their greatest hits.
A wandering spider (Ctenidae) preys on a subadult Cercosaura eigenmanni lizard in the Amazon rainforest.
Later, Robert Voss, a mammologist at the American Museum of Natural History, confirmed they had captured the first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider-commonly known as a tarantula-hunting and eating an opossum.
"We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing", Grundler says.
In footage posted to YouTube by the university, researcher Mike Grundler, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the school, describes the encounter with the nightmare-inducing spider. "[These events] provide insights into an important source of vertebrate mortality that appears to be less common outside the tropics", he said. The tarantula preys on every other frog, but leaves this little guy alone. 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.
American scientists have for the first time captured vision of a giant tarantula spider preying on an opossum in the Amazon rainforest.