Giant cave spiders! Good thing they are in Laos.

A harvestman was collected in Laos and recent reexamined. It is a GIANT indeed. This article notes that’s not the only huge species in Laos, a land of great (big) discoveries.

Giant Harvestman Yet to Be Named: Arachnologist Discovers Another Giant of the Animal World in Laos

A scientist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered a harvestman with a leg span of more than 33 centimetres. The creature found during a research trip to Laos is one of the largest representatives of the entire order worldwide. Experts have so far failed to properly identify it to species level.

[…] I collected spiders from the caves in the southern province of Khammouan,” the Frankfurt arachnologist explains. In doing so, he made a sensational discovery. “In one of the caves I discovered a harvestman that was absolutely huge.” The leg span of the gigantic male harvestman was more than 33 centimetres and therefore one of the world’s largest.

We non-metric folks in the U.S. just pulled out our units converters and discovered that 33 cm is about…

13 INCHES

That is NUTS.  Harvestmen are all over the place, and they will obligingly crawl all over you if you pause for a spell while hiking in the woods. They are ecologically a very important predator. But the researchers can’t identify this particular big guy because descriptive taxonomy is no longer the main focus of research funding in this part of Asia. No one has the expertise.

Laos has other arthropods with similar huge dimensions. The article notes — the Laotian huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima with a leg span of up to 30 centimetres, the whip scorpion Typopeltis magnificus with a span of 26 centimetres and the predatory centipede Thereuopoda longicornis with a total span of almost 40 centimetres. YIKES!

All these giant organisms are linked to caves. It could be that caves are a slow-growth environment or some characteristic encourages large size.

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  11 comments for “Giant cave spiders! Good thing they are in Laos.

  1. One Eyed Jack
    October 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    … marks Laos off his list of places to visit.

  2. agent j
    October 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    With an insect that size, DDT would be no more than a quick buzz!

    • October 16, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      Actually, is an arachnid, not insect (I’m pedantic that way thanks to Wildlife Treasury info cards as a child).

      • One Eyed Jack
        October 17, 2012 at 9:35 AM

        They still fall under the umbrella taxonomy of… “ewwww!”

      • Steeev
        October 17, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        You can tell it isn’t an insect because it has seven legs. I guess that puts it halfway between insect and spider.

  3. Phil
    October 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    Syfy movie original! I get first dibs on pitching it to the network. Also that must be pushing the limit on oxygenation for an arachnid not to mention the law of cubes on size.

  4. October 17, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    I like harvetmen/daddy longs legs – they somehow don’t remind me of spider even though I know how close they are. But then, I don’t mind spiders either.

  5. Sean
    October 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    These things BITE too. I don’t think they’re poisonous, but I was once holding one of its 2- inch “Daddy Long-legs” cousins in my hand, and the thing nipped me hard enough to actually hurt!

  6. October 17, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Spiders in general are great. Even the deadly ones don’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Granted, I would definitely get rid of (read “kill” if I could not easily and safely relocate them), but I go out of my way to escort spiders safely out of the house. Why should we kill them just because they give most of us the creeps. I don’t want any spider walking across me uninvited, but they are living and have a right to live as well. Why is it so hard for so many people to accept that things don’t have to be human to deserve to live?

  7. jaal
    October 18, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Re Larry

    Spiders give me the creeps but they are great catching flies and mosquitos – I live in southern Spain and this summer I had 3 large webs in my garden (as opposed to one in previous years) and we really noticed less flying pests.

    BTW Put a lizzard in your room during summer and say bye to any bedroom critters (even if you sleep with the window open).

  8. mike jones
    October 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    oh right, they could have given us an idea of the size by putting it next to another object. ridiculous article. what a waste of time

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