Today in “Are you kidding me with this stuff, Australia?”: a huntsman spider devouring a pygmy possum.

The marsupial-munching spider was spotted dining on its unusual prey at a lodge in Tasmania’s Mount Field National Park. New Zealander Justine Latton shared photos, captured by her husband, of the rare sighting on a Facebook group dedicated to Tasmania’s spiders and insects.

Unsurprisingly, they stirred up a slew of responses. Some people were shocked (“Omg.. I can't even .. I wanna scream”), others were impressed (“Whoa that’s one strong spidey!”), while a few folk just marvelled at the grisly spectacle (“I would be so freaking excited if I were lucky enough to witness this.”)

While the prospect of possum-gobbling spiders is terrifying for some, it’s important to point out that this particular victim probably weighed less than a golf ball. The unfortunate prey is most likely an eastern pygmy possum – a tiny species of marsupial that weighs between 15 and 43 grams and reaches a maximum length of about 11 centimetres.

Huntsman spiders don’t usually prey on pygmy possums, preferring to dine on small birds, frogs or geckos. “It would be fairly rare,” Australia Museum arachnology collection manager Graham Milledge told the Guardian. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a pygmy possum as prey.”

Unusual as it may be, it’s certainly not beyond the capabilities of these arachnids to feast on sizeable prey. Back in 2016, a huntsman was filmed hauling a mouse around a kitchen in Australia. It’s unlikely, however, that the spider actually attacked and killed the rodent, but its feat of strength earned it some local fame.


Some online commenters have also raised doubts about whether the latest crazy huntsman catch was indeed a case of bonafide arachnid predation. Like many of Australia’s mammals, pygmy possums regularly enter a state of torpor, characterised by a reduction in body temperature and metabolic rate, in order to conserve energy.

Prolonged, multi-day bouts of torpor are typically referred to as hibernation. And eastern pygmy possums are particularly good at it. In a lab study from 2007, the species clocked a record-breaking 367 days without food. In a state of torpor or hibernation, possums are particularly vulnerable to predation, so it’s possible that this huntsman took advantage of the possum’s affinity for long naps.

Either way, Australia earns another point in the “crazy wildlife” column.

Top header image: Mark Yokoyama/Flickr