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Can a tarantula eat a snake? Scientists impressed by spider

In what may be a first for science, researchers marvel at a rare instance of a large spider snacking on a snake in the wilds of Brazil.

The tarantula enjoys a snake for a meal.
Gabriela Franzoi Dri

Like any critter, spiders get hungry. Tarantulas usually satisfy this by chowing down on other bugs, though large arachnids are also known to nibble on lizards and rodents.

Researchers in Brazil made a grisly but fascinating discovery when they found a large female tarantula in the process of eating a snake.

Here's the epic description of the death scene from a paper on the find: "The snake (snout-vent length 390.60 mm) was found dead, with severe damage to the anterior and middle regions of its body. The spider was feeding on these areas; therefore, they were in an advanced stage of decomposition due to the extracorporeal digestion process carried out by this arachnid."

The title of the paper, published in December in the journal Herpetology Notes, really gets to the point: "Predation of the snake Erythrolamprus almadensis by the tarantula Grammostola quirogai." Live Science brought this riveting discovery into the public eye.

The researchers from Brazil's Universidade Federal de Santa Maria believe the snake may have accidentally wandered into the spider's hole. This snake meal is of particular scientific interest since serpents are an unusual dinner choice for a tarantula, and there's very little documentation on it happening in the wild.

"To the best of our knowledge, we present here the first documented case involving the predation of a snake by an individual of the Theraphosidae family in nature," the researchers note. A photograph published with the paper shows the feeding in action, though you might not want to look too closely if you're squeamish about snakes or spiders.

The tarantula joins a small but select group of ambitiously hungry spiders, which already includes this huntsman in Australia that tried to eat a mouse while clinging to the side of a refrigerator.