Episode 104 – Goliath Birdeater: Along Came a Spider

“…and today we’re talking about a spider that sat down beside her and tilted the bench under its immense weight, spilling curds and whey everywhere.”

Tarantulas are big. The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula is even bigger. But being big doesn’t mean you don’t have enemies and predators to deal with. So how do you handle them? Well, you could try and bite them with your venomous fangs, but you might run into logistical issues not having a neck and all. So you might need a trick up your sleeve for when things get hairy here in Life Death and Taxonomy.


  • The goliath birdeater is a large brown tarantula with a wide flat carapace, and a round abdomen.
  • They have long legs, but unlike other spiders, they have no tibial spurs, which are hooks typically located on the front pairs of legs. Spurs are used for digging and web making.
  • Their color can be brown to a goldish brown color. 
  • They are mostly monochromatic.
  • Their native to the Amazon jungle where they spend more of their time on the ground or in burrows.

Measure up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We have a new measure up intro from Keri. this one was also procured by Carlos, who’s this person?


  • 30 cm (12 in)
  • How many birdeaters go into the height of the Afobaka Dam in the Suriname River?
  • Hint: More than 70 percent of the Afobaka Dam powers an aluminum smelter and the rest is used by Paramaribo, the country’s capital.
  • 177 birdeaters. The Afobaka Dam is 54 m (177 ft) high.

Body mass

  • 170 grams (5.9 ounces)
  • The Goliath birdeater may be the largest spider in the amazon, but the largest mammal is the amazonian manatee. How many spiders go into the weight of the manatee?
  • Hint: Females are typically larger than male manatees.
  • 3,228 spiders. The manatees are 540 kg (1190.5 pounds)

Fast Facts

Birdeaters don’t often eat birds.

  • They can eat small birds on occasion, but they prefer smaller, easier prey.
  • The name birdeater was apparently popularized because of an illustration by nature illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian that depicts the spider eating a hummingbird.
  • They usually eat insects but they can also eat frogs and rodents.

Goliaths are active hunters and they prowl around the Amazon forest floor looking for food.

  • The spider will pounce on prey, delivering a bite with it’s fangs that can be as long as an inch.
  • The fangs inject a neurotoxin into prey.
  • Like other spiders, goliaths initiate the digestion process before eating their prey.
  • Digestive fluids liquify the prey so the spider can suck up all the nutrients.

Goliath spider bites are deadly to small animals but not to humans.

  • A goliath spider bite would be comparable to a bee or wasp sting to us.

Goliaths like to line burrows with their silk, but they do not build webs like other spiders.

  • Silk pads burrows but makes escape nearly impossible to small animals that are dragged in.