According to the Guinness Book of World Records, which lists the world’s largest insects, the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider (Loxedes gadelhae) of Mexico claims the title. The previous record-holder was a giant, aptly-named, Hercules Beetle.
At 2.6 meters tall and measuring 1.4 meters across its shoulders. With an 8.6 meter-long abdomen and 2.7 meter-long legs, this giant arthropod (group of more than 10-jointed limbs) is bigger than the average person. Its weight was initially classified as 5 kilograms, and it eats up to 1 million flies a day. It’s been around for 50 years, and over the centuries has been responsible for eating about 1.5 million tons of arthropods. Now, thanks to a study in Science, it seems there may be many more similar insects in Australia.
In a paper published in the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, researchers found at least ten new species of oversized insects in Australia that they classify as spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and stick insects.
These oversized “invertebrates” have at least 10 joints or legs. There are two new spiders, including the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider of the title, two new millipedes, and two new centipedes. The most intriguing of the bunch might be the long-legged, red-and-yellow millipede, which looks like a long-legged millipede, but it’s actually a spider, a giant spider. It eats flies, moths, spiders, and other insects. There is also a spider-centipede hybrid known as Xystonotus. It probably isn’t a true spider, but it was discovered in a glass case as a natural wonder, and to its admirers, it is a rare insect to behold.
The four large millipedes are part of the Arthropleura “worm”-order. This group of millipedes has 10 body segments with no real distinction. Millipedes don’t really walk like people, but rather, they crawl using a long ribbon-like tail and large, powerful front legs with which they push their slow-motion forward. Some species live in the tree trunks of tropical rainforests but are relatively slow creatures, walking only a short few miles in their lifetimes. They spend their entire lives attached to the surface of their host tree, and they have no need for burrowing.
The new spiders are new species entirely. A single millipede of the order Julida is usually about eight or nine inches long. This species is only two and a half inches long. A single spider of the family Theridiidae is about a third of an inch long. The Goliath Bird-Eating Spider of the title is considerably larger than both of them at two and a half inches by six inches, and it has a mouth full of huge teeth for crushing and swallowing its prey. The family Lycosidae is not known to contain the largest species on our planet. The Spyrotheca, which is its name, is a little more than an inch long, while its larger relative the Devil Spider measures nearly three and a half inches by six inches. The Devil Spider’s larger size, the fact that it is a recluse, and its ability to catch and kill small mammals make it a creature deserving of a book by itself. Yet in my search for a “world spider book” that can stand comparison with the two-volume set I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Insects, I failed to find a comparable volume that deals with both species of Spyrotheca.