Colombian Giant Red-leg Tarantula

(Megaphobema robustum)

This Giant Red-leg inhabits the rain forests of Colombia and is oddly named since at about a 18 cms/7” adult leg span, it is certainly large, but is not truly giant compared to the largest tarantulas.

Furthermore, its beautiful leg coloration is more of a rust-orange than red, which is in astonishing contrast to the velvety chocolate-coloured femurs and mahogany or reddish abdomen hairs. This is a very attractive tarantula species and its striking appearance is breath taking to behold.

As the spiders get bigger, they tend to get furrier too. This aptly-named red leg spider is a handsome creature, with such stunning markings. They feed on large insects and small mice and live in the tropical rainforests of Colombia. Even though they are quite large, they are shy and defensive in nature.

Being a skittish species, it has a very unique and interesting defensive behaviour. When disturbed it will stretch out its spiky-haired rear legs and raise up and bob its abdomen in a threat posture. If further provoked it will circle and strike at its offender with its spiky legs. The hairs can cause severe skin irritation in some people.

There is an interesting and drastic gender difference between the sexes of these spiders. Male red legs live for about five years, while females have been known to survive for as many as twenty years.

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Brazilian Wandering Spider (Phoneutria)

The not-so-welcome Brazilian Wandering Spider in Colombia, scientifically known as Phoneutria, is a highly venomous arachnid found in various regions of the country. While its name suggests a Brazilian origin, this species also inhabits parts of Colombia, particularly in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas. These spiders are often found hiding in leaf litter, tree bark and other concealed locations, making them difficult to spot and potentially dangerous encounters for humans.

This spider is easily recognized by its large size, with a leg span reaching up to 17 cms/7 inches. Its body is typically brown, with yellow markings on its legs and a distinctive yellow star-like pattern on its underside, providing effective camouflage in its natural habitat.

Unlike most spiders, they actively hunt at night, earning the name wandering spider due to their tendency to roam rather than build webs.

Brazilian Wandering Spiders are known for their potent venom, which contains neurotoxins that can cause paralysis and respiratory failure in humans. While fatalities are rare, their venom can result in severe pain, inflammation and other symptoms if bitten. As a result, encounters with these spiders should be treated with caution and immediate medical attention sought if bitten.

In addition to their reputation for venomous bites, Brazilian Wandering Spiders are also known for their unique defensive behavior. When threatened, they may rear up on their hind legs and display their fangs as a warning signal, making them formidable predators in their environment.

Interesting tidd bits:

  • The Brazilian Wandering Spider is considered the most venomous spider globally based on its venom’s potency.
  • Despite its fearsome reputation, these spiders are generally not aggressive and prefer to flee than attack.
  • Their presence in Colombia is likely due to accidental transportation through the banana trade, highlighting the importance of biosecurity measures.

Despite their fearsome reputation, Brazilian Wandering Spiders play important roles in controlling insect populations and contributing to ecosystem balance in their native habitats. However, their potential danger to humans underscores the importance of respecting their space and taking precautions in areas where they are known to inhabit.

Mouse Spiders (Missulena)

Masters of Mimicry
Among Colombia’s fascinating array of arachnids, the Mouse Spider stands out for its unique blend of cunning and camouflage. While the name Mouse Spider might conjure images of furry rodents, these eight-legged creatures utilize a remarkable strategy to deceive their prey.

Mouse spiders, belonging to the genus Missulena, are burrowing spiders found in various regions of Colombia. These small, agile spiders, typically inhabit dry, sandy soils and are commonly found in grasslands, woodlands and shrublands. Known for their mouse-like appearance, Mouse spiders have stout bodies and short, stocky legs. They are typically brown or black and color, with some species displaying contrasting markings on their bodies. However, it is their legs that hold the key to their success.

Mouse spiders possess exceptional behavioral mimicry. They can raise their front legs and vibrate them rapidly, mimicking the antennae and movements of ants. This ingenious strategy lures unsuspecting prey, primarily small insects like beetles and other spiders, closer, allowing the spider to pounce and deliver a quick, paralyzing bite.

Interestingly, Mouse spiders do not spin webs like their web-weaving counterparts. Instead, they rely on their exceptional hunting prowess and camouflage abilities to secure their meals. Additionally, they burrow underground during the day, creating small refuges for rest and protection.

While Mouse spiders possess venom that is toxic to their prey, they are not considered highly dangerous to humans. Their venom is primarily used to subdue insects and other small prey and they are not aggressive towards humans unless provoked. Bites from Mouse spiders are rare and while they can cause localized pain and discomfort, severe reactions are uncommon.

In Colombia, Mouse spiders can be found in several regions across the country, including the Andean foothills, the Magdalena Valley and parts of the Amazon rainforest. Despite their relatively low toxicity to humans, Mouse spiders play important roles in ecosystems as predators of insects and other arthropods. By controlling populations of pests and contributing to ecosystem balance, these spiders help maintain the health and diversity of their habitats.

Many times Mouse spiders are often mistaken for Funnel-web spiders due to their similar appearance and burrowing behavior. However, unlike Funnel-web spiders, Mouse spiders are not considered highly venomous to humans, and their bites are typically less severe. Overall, Mouse spiders are fascinating arachnids that contribute to the ecological balance of Colombia’s diverse ecosystems.

In conclusion, the Mouse spider showcases the remarkable diversity and adaptations seen in the spider world. Their mastery of mimicry and their role in maintaining ecological balance make them a fascinating addition to Colombia’s rich tapestry of wildlife.

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