For this hungry toad, a good-as-gone meal wasn't a done deal.

University of Arizona professor Michael Bogan was enjoying a night hike in Sabino Canyon recently when he stumbled across this Sonoran Desert toad (Bufo alvarius) and stopped to take a closer look – which is when he noticed something hairy protruding from the animal's mouth. 

The amphibian had selected a western desert tarantula for its late-night dinner, but the plucky arachnid simply wasn't going down without a fight. 

Tarantula bodies are covered in urticating hairs: fine little bristles that irritate the skin and eyes of their would-be predators. These hairs are one of the primary defence mechanisms of many spiders, and make the experience of eating one less than pleasant.

As Bogan observed the meal unfold, he suddenly noticed the toad's eyes opening and closing in what looked to be discomfort. Not content with simply letting its prickling hair do all the work, it appears the tarantula also tried biting its way out before it reached the belly of the beast. 

"I soon realised that I could see the spider moving through the skin of the toad's throat, and it looked like the tarantula's mouth parts were pushing against [it], likely biting it," Bogan told CNET.

After seeing the photos online, arachnologist and emeritus professor at Ohio University Jerome Rovner weighed in on the situation. "We don't know whether the tarantula released any venom or not, but it wouldn't have to. The urticating hairs are all that's needed for it to defend itself," Rovner told National Geographic. 

Eventually, the amphibian decided its meal simply wasn't worth the pain and trouble, and decided to tap out. In the end, the opponents hopped and scurried their separate ways, and while it appears the arachnid may have injured a leg or two, it'll likely survive, according to experts. "It's never the end until it's really the end, even when you're halfway down the mouth of a toad, you still have a chance," said Bogan. 

The only question left to ask is who made a better half-eaten escape attempt: tarantula-in-toad or lizard-in-snake?

Kingsnake Lizard Related 2016 09 15


Top header image: Michael Wifall, Flickr