Giant huntsman spider: The world's largest spider by leg span

Huntsman spiders, large and fast, are found in warm regions around the globe. Their ability to catch prey is what makes them so distinctive.Christy Bills (Invertebrate Collections manager, Natural History Museum of Utah), explained that Huntsman spiders don't make webs to catch prey. They hunt their prey and this is what gives them their common name.This family (Sparassidae) contains thousands of subspecies. Average huntsman spiders are approximately 1 inch (22.5 cm) in length with a leg span up to 5 inches (12.7cm). Heteropoda maxima, the giant huntsman spider, can span up to 12 inches (30cm) and is considered to be the largest spider in terms of its diameter. It is commonly described as "the size of a dinnerplate". According to research published in Zoosystema, Peter Jger, the head of the Senckenberg Research Institute's arachnology section, found the giant huntsman in Laos. This behemoth arachnid has been seen only by a handful of people.Related: Huntsman spiders feed on tree frogs, after being lured into leaf trapsAccording to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest spider in terms of weight is likely the goliath-birdeater tarantula.How do hunters look?Huntsman spiders can sometimes be mistakenly called tarantulas because of their large size. The position of the legs is one way to distinguish a huntsman spider from a tarantula. Most spiders have legs that extend vertically beneath the body. Bills said that huntsman spiders have legs that extend out to the sides and look crablike. Huntsman spiders can also be called giant crab spiders.Huntsman spiders have twisted joints on their legs that allow them to move forward like crabs. They can move side to side thanks to their alignment, which further explains the nickname crab. While males have longer legs than females, their bodies are larger. Bills stated that colors and patterns can vary. The legs of spiders are usually gray or brown and have a banded appearance.A photograph of a female huntsman (Heterpoda veneatoria) taken at a West Bengal home, India. Image credit: Getty ImagesAccording to the Australian Museum, many huntsman species have flattened bodies that are ideal for getting into tight spaces.Classification/taxonomyThe Integrated Taxonomic Information System, (ITIS) states that the taxonomy for giant huntsman spiders follows:Kingdom : Animalia: Animalia Subkingdom : Bilateria: Bilateria Infrakingdom : Protostomia: Protostomia Superphylum : Ecdysozoa: Ecdysozoa Phylum : Arthropoda: Arthropoda Subphylum : Chelicerata: Chelicerata Class : Arachnida: Arachnida Order : AraneaeSparassidae: Araneae Familie: Sparassidae Genus & species: Heteropoda maximaWhere can they be found?Laos was home to the giant huntsman, while most huntsman species are Asian. Science Alert reports that they are also found in South America, Australia, and Africa. They are found in several warm American states like Florida, Texas, California, and Texas. According to the University of Florida they may have been introduced from Asia. They are often called banana spiders because they were believed to have arrived from Asia in boxes of bananas.Which environments are best for them to live in?Bills extolled huntsman speed, saying that they can be large and fast. She said that the huntsman spider can travel up to one meter (a little over a yard) per second. The spider lives in loose bark, under rocks and in crevices. Australian Huntsman spiders are known for getting into houses and cars, particularly Australian ones. According to the Australian Museum they were often found hiding behind sunvisors or running across dashboards. These spiders are social and can sometimes be found sitting together in groups on stumps or dead trees.What does a huntsman eat, and what do they eat?The huntsman chases or ambushes his prey and kills it with venom. These mouthparts are called the chelicerae. According to the University of Florida, once the prey is captured, it will be infected with deadly venom by the spider's glands. Huntsman is also a useful spider, as it can eat cockroaches and other insects. Can huntsman actually kill humans?Similar: Huntsman Spider Devours the Possum in Viral Photos (and Terrifying).Huntsman spiders use their sharp fangs to inject venom onto prey. Shutterstock) (Image credit: Peter WatersThe Australian Reptile Park states that although huntsman can be venomous, and bites can cause pain to humans, their bites do not cause any more severe than mild nausea and headaches. Most commonly, pain and swelling are the only symptoms.How do huntsman reproduce?Huntsman spiders, unlike other species of spider that eat their mates are quite romantic. The Australian Museum says that their mating rituals can last several hours and involve long caresses and other displays of interest. To fertilize his eggs, the male beats his antennae-like pedipalps appendages against tree trunks.A female huntsman holding onto a silk bag containing hundreds of spider offspring. (Image credit to Elliekay/Public Domain)After mating, the female will lay up to 200 eggs. She then wraps them in a large oval of spun-silk. Bills said that some huntsmen are dedicated mothers. They protect their eggs and look after them. According to the University of Florida's Entomology and Nematology Departments, some females keep the sac under their bodies which restricts their movement. Some others place the sac underneath a piece of bark or rock and rest their heads on it for up to three weeks. Females can become aggressive in both cases when protecting their eggs sacs.The Australian Reptile Park states that the mother may open the egg sac to allow her spiderlings to emerge at birth. The mother will then spend several weeks with her babies. Baby huntersmen are pale and become darker with each molt.Huntsman spiders live up to two years.Editor's Note: We recommend the following book if you want more information about this topic:This article was last updated by Scott Dutfield, How It Works staff writerAdditional resources