By the edhat staff
Jason Tapia was doing a trail run in the San Marcos Preserve recently when he ran across a rare sight, a tarantula eating what appears to be a baby Rattlesnake.
“It looks like the snake had just eaten a big meal. The rattler was about a foot or less,” Jason wrote to edhat.
A 2017 article from National Geographic reported that it was only in 2015 when the first recorded instance of a tarantula eating a snake in the wild was made in Brazil. A graduate student just happened to see a large species of tarantula rip apart a foot long non-venomous snake.
According to the article, scientists have known for decades that snakes can fall prey to tarantulas. In 1926, Brazilian researchers Vital Brazil and Jehan Vellard found that captive tarantulas occasionally ate snakes. A 1992 study further reported that the Goliath birdeater tarantula could eat fer-de-lance vipers, if nudged to do so. An expert stated the spiders have been known to eat anything they can over power: frogs, mice, lizards.
A 2021 study looked further into this spider eating snake thing and scientists were stunned by how prevalent it actually is. Large spiders like tarantulas were not known to be the snake eating type, but instead the spider family that includes black widows have been historically responsible for capturing the most snakes.
The study also found that the vast majority of these reports happened not in the tropics, but across North America. The snakes that fell victim are also small, averaging about 10 inches in length, although still larger than the spider. In most cases researchers found the tarantula built extremely tough webs that extend to the ground and trap unsuspecting snakes. The spider then delivers its venomous bite to paralyze it, wrap in silk, and haul it off for dinner.
“Digestive enzymes in the spider’s bite liquefy the snake’s soft parts, just as they would with a fly. The spider then takes its time slurping up the insides, with some meals stretching out days and even weeks,” according to National Geographic.
This time of year, late summer to early October, is known as tarantula mating season where males set off in search of mates, most commonly seen in the Santa Ynez Valley. So it’s no surprise to see a tarantula in their prime habitat, but to see one polishing off a rattler, that’s unique.
Next time you’re on a trail run or a hike, look down and you might find something rare.