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Tarantula spider seen munching on opossum in the Amazon. Wait, what?

Arachnaphobes, look away. These Amazon rainforest spiders are eating some disturbing dinners.

Are you scared of spiders? Quit reading right now. Really, I mean it. 

amazonspider

A tarantula snacks on a Bolivian bleating frog.

Emanuele Biggi, in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

"We heard scrabbling in the leaf litter," says Mike Grundler, a University of Michigan biology PhD candidate. It sounds like a line from a horror novel, but it's a description of what scientists experienced in the Amazon rainforest just before catching sight of a tarantula hauling an opossum off into the underbrush. 

You can watch the nightmarish footage in a video released on Friday by the University of Michigan. Grundler describes the spider as being "the size of a dinner plate," just in case you're not freaked out enough already.

The opossum video is just one of a string of odd spider observations shared by a research team studying predator-prey interactions in a remote area of Peru. The work involved documenting "rare and disturbing" sightings of spiders and centipedes eating frogs, lizards and snakes.

"A surprising amount of death of small vertebrates in the Amazon is likely due to arthropods such as big spiders and centipedes," said University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Daniel Rabosky.

The researchers walked around at night with flashlights to spot the spiders, which sounds like a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening. 

The video of the opossum-eating spider is the first known observation of that particular predator-and-prey combo. "We were pretty ecstatic and shocked, and we couldn't really believe what we were seeing," said Grundler.   

Centipedes eating snakes and spiders chowing down on frogs may be nightmare material for a lot of people, but the biologists are using this information to learn more about the food web and how critters interact in the rainforest.

The researchers published their observations in the February issue of the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation journal (PDF link). You can enjoy all the graphic photographic proof of just how hungry those Amazonian spiders are.