Goliath Bird-Eating Spider (Therophosa leblondi)
French Guiana, and westwards towards Venezuela
2 - 3 years
Number of Young:
There are approximately 40,000 described species of spider which occur widely throughout the world. Size ranges from less than ½ cm to the giant Goliath spider (28cm).
The Goliath spider is found on the ground in rainforests of South America. As with all spiders, it is carnivorous (a meat-eater) and kills its prey using venom. The spider’s hollow fangs are connected to special glands which produce this venom. In the wild, prey will include small vertebrates, including lizards, frogs and nestling birds, as well as a range of invertebrates - insects, etc.
After mating with the male, the female may store the sperm, sometimes up to 18 months, and use it to fertilise several batches of eggs. The female usually stops feeding at least a month before she lays her eggs. She will produce a cocooned egg-sac which is usually laid in a burrow, and then guard it until the young spiderlings emerge. During this time, which may last up to six months, the female will not feed.
The young spiders stay in the egg-sac until after their first moult. This moulting - shedding of the hard, outer exoskeleton - occurs at intervals throughout their lifetimes and allows them to grow. How often they moult will depend on how much they eat. After moulting, the new exoskeleton is soft, and the spider will retire to a sheltered, safe spot where this can harden. Most spiders undergo 6-10 moults during their lifetime, although males tend to have fewer than females, and the large Goliath females may continue to shed throughout their lifetime.
Goliath spiders are under increasing pressure from the pet trade. Many individuals are taken from the wild, destined to be sold as pets in this and other countries. However, it is estimated that for every spider that makes it to someone’s home, up to 9 others will have died during capture and on the journey. Wild populations of Goliath spiders will inevitably suffer, and the species may be added to the growing list of endangered species.
The world’s heaviest spider, and one of the largest in terms of leg span - approx. 11 inches (28cm). Dark, ‘chocolate’ brown in colour.
Goliath spiders need precise conditions in captivity. The temperature should be around 75oC, and the humidity 80%. Marwell’s Goliaths live in special tanks in the Tropical House where these conditions are maintained. The adults are fed on one baby mouse twice a week, with the occasional locust.