"Roger, do not be alarmed."
This was the warning Justine Latton's husband issued before instructing his friend to look over his head. The couple had just repaired a door in an old ski lodge in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania, when Latton's husband realized they were not alone.
Less than a foot away, a hunter-spider the size of an adult's hand was near the door – and a dead pygmy possum dangled from his shiny black teeth.
"That's kind of disgusting and crazy and startling," Latton told the Washington Post she thought of her husband
Latton was not the only person who was shocked by the "opossum-eating spider". Pictures of hairy arachnids and their mammals snack shared by Latton on Facebook last week has since become viral, pointing to an unusual event that fascinates spider experts, but others call it "nightmares".
However conspicuous the photographs may be, Latton emphasized the importance of understanding scale. While the spider was "one of the largest" her husband had ever seen, the dead possum was the size of a large walnut, she said. There are two species of the tiny marsupial in Tasmania: Eastern Pygmies and Little Pygmies. The Eastern variety has a weight of 15 to 43 grams. Little Pygmy possums are the smallest of their kind in the world.
Bryan Fry, a professor at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, told The Post that he estimates the diameter of the spider to be 9 inches.
It's a pretty big spider, "Fry said. "It's not a kind of Godzilla spider."
Huntsman spiders, known for their size and speed, are widespread in Australia and Tasmania. A fairly large one had been hiding around the ski lodge.
"It's the kind of place you would really expect to find a spider," she said.
The limp Pygmy Possum hanging from his mouth was another story.
When her husband made his girlfriend aware of the strange duo hovering near his head, Latton Roger said, "Geez, you do not see that every day."
According to Fry, the typical diet consists of Crickets with legs made of insects, which is why most Australian residents welcome them in their homes. The spiders often hide behind chests of drawers or paintings.
"You move a painting and then it looks like a strange face is staring at you," he said.
Despite the fearsome apparitions of the spiders, Fry, a poisons expert, described them as "kind, friendly residents".
"You are not a dangerous spider," he said. "I do not mind having them near my house, I'd rather have a few hunters and fewer cockroaches."
Hunter spiders feeding on small rodents are "not common, but it's not uncommon." , he said. Unlike other spiders who use nets to catch their prey, the hunter chases their prey and immobilizes them with poison. I was sick or injured so it came earlier, "Fry said.
He added, "It's something you do not normally see, so the novelty makes it pretty interesting.
There were other major cases Graham Milledge, a collection manager for arachnids at the Australian Museum in Sydney, told The Post:
In 2016, the video was of a hunter spider cutting off the side of a refrigerator while she was dead Mouse killed, viral. A few months ago, scientists published a record of a tarantula the size of a dinner plate that killed an opossum in the rainforests of southeastern Peru.
Spiders will try to "eat whatever comes within their reach. , , That's a size they think she can handle, "Milledge said.
In social media, Latton's photos produced mixed reactions ranging from fascination to horror.
"I would be so damn excited if I could witness this," commented a Facebook user. "Thank you for sharing such an epic photo."
Others thought the photos signaled when a person wrote it "Time to leave the planet."
Though the pictures have scared many, Fry emphasized that hunting spiders are useful, especially for pest control.
"Do not try to kill them," he said, "Make a Live and Let Live Approach."
After taking pictures from the Hunter Spider and their meal, Latton said that her husband and boyfriend had successfully brought the couple out with an old ice bucket
"No spiders were injured in the relocation efforts (too late for the possum)", she wrote in a Facebook message to The Post.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Pygmy possums, they are marsupials.