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Camel Spiders and Other Alleged Giant Spiders

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 11th, 2010

From 2006…one of our most popular postings…with more comments from 2008…

Giant Spiders

Camel spiders found during the Iraq war. They are real. What do I mean by real?

Jeremy Miller was hunting black widow spiders in a Madagascar forest last winter (of 2005) when he came upon a curious fist-size web made of leaves, branches and debris woven together with thin, tough strands of spider silk. No black widow ever made such a web, but when Miller examined the tiny creatures inside, he realized he’d discovered a new species of “spitting spider.”

Thus begins the article in the San Francisco Chronicle of July 22, 2006, on the exciting find of a new animal, a spitting spider, Scytodes specialis.

Giant Spiders

Pictured above is the new species’ relative, another spitting spider, Scytodes thoracia.

Of course, finding new insects and spiders happens all the time. But my internal definition of cryptid, especially as captured in Cryptozoology A to Z, is that cryptids are big enough to visually have an impact on humans. Thus, when I read about new little spiders, it makes me wonder…what stories are out there about truly giant spiders?

Bizarrely, the war in Iraq is generating such stories. It seems soldiers have been seeing and killing “spiders” they call “camel spiders.” At the top of this posting is a photograph of two camel spiders that has been circulated a great deal on the internet.

Here’s what is being posted across cyberspace about these giant Iraqi camel spiders, so-called because they are said to jump on camels’ stomachs and lay their eggs inside for hatching:

Some facts about those giant spiders: They run 10 mph, jump three feet, are a nocturnal spider, so only come out at night unless they are in shade. When they bite you, you are injected with Novocain so you go numb instantly. You don’t even know you are bitten when you are sleeping, so you wake up with part of your leg or arm missing because it has been gnawing on it all night long. If you are walking around and you bump something that is casting a shadow over it, and the sun makes contact with it, you better run. It will instantly run for your shadow, and scream the whole time it is chasing you. PS. These are Spiders found daily in Iraq by troops. Imagine waking up and seeing one of these in your tent!! Spread this to all your friends who have a family member in the army, and let them know what kind of daily life they live everyday! Hopefully someone high in our government will start thinking about our troops’ lives, and they’ll be back home safe real soon!

Facts? Nope. Eggs in camels’ stomachs? Never.

Giant Spiders

The above camel spider factoids are myth, mixed in with one real photograph of two real arachnids (at the very top of this posting) and a few hoaxed ones (directly above). These animals are technically what are called solifugids, but are more commonly known as wind or sun scorpions or camel spiders. The eight-legged solifugids have no venom glands, and the largest species is no more than 6 inches long with its legs outstretched. Apparently, some people even keep them as pets. You can read more about them in this National Geographic article, which also talks about a new species of wind scorpion recently discovered in Mexico.

Classically, the most exotic Giant Spider sightings have come from Africa. Various Mokele-mbembe expedition members have brought back tales from the Congo of Giant African Spiders, known among the Baka pygmies, and said to be at least 10 inches across. Some are vague tales of missionaries knowing about porters being killed by giant spiders. Others tell of the giant spiders being reported under tents, crossing trails, and running through campsites. For everyone that was thinking about going on a Mokele-mbembe trek soon, they didn’t tell you about that, did they?

Perhaps most well-known is one clear story of the really large ground-dwelling spider collected by Mokele-mbembe researcher Bill Gibbons, who writes:

I first became aware of a giant ground-dwelling spider through Miss Margaret Lloyd, formerly of Rhodesia and now living in England. Her parents, Reginald and Margurite Lloyd were exploring the interior of the old Belgian Congo in 1938 when they spotted something crossing the jungle track ahead of them. At first they took the object to be a large jungle cat or a monkey on all fours. When they stopped their vehicle (an old Ford truck) to allow the animal to pass, they were thunderstruck to see that it was a very large brown spider, similar in its appearance to a tarantula, with a leg span of at least four or five feet. Mr. Lloyd trembled so much with excitement that he was unable to retrieve his camera in time to take a snap, and Mrs. Lloyd was so distraught that she wanted to return home (Rhodesia) immediately. This creature is known as the J’ba Fofi; J’ba meaning “great” or “giant” Fofi meaning “spider” (spiders of all kinds are called Fofi).

Are there other historical or contemporary Giant Spider sightings from Africa?

Cryptomundo correspondent Todd Partain writes with this new old sighting, collected during July 2006:

Just a couple of days ago, my own father related this story from his childhood, and I immediately grabbed a notebook and started jotting down facts….

One cool night in 1948, in Leesville, Louisiana, 48-year-old William Slaydon walked his wife, Pearl, and his three grandsons to church. Among them was the youngest, Richard Partain, a child of six at the time. They walked north along Highway 171, and as the road began to dip, Grandpa Slaydon suddenly stopped his grandchildren with a gesture and had them step back quietly and freeze.

The grandchildren, aged six to thirteen, knew instinctively to obey this gesture without question. There was a rustling from the ditch, and an unbelievable creature emerged from the darkness.

Richard Partain described: “It was a huge spider, the size of a washtub. It was hairy and black. No one, not even my grandmother, said a word.”

As they watched, the giant arachnid crossed the asphalt from East to West, and disappeared into the brush on the opposite side of the highway.

“We asked Grandpa what it was, and he said simply that it was a very large spider.”

Afterwards, all nighttime walks by the family to the church were cancelled. The incident was never discussed again with the grandchildren.

“Through my whole life, whenever I watched a TV program or read an article about spiders, I would wait for someone to identify it, but no one ever has,” said Richard. “I always had the impression that Grandpa was familiar with them, that had seen one before, or at least knew about them.”

Bill Slaydon, born on the turn of the century, was a man that had lived in the deep woods, building makeshift slab towns at whatever spot was necessary to facilitate the logging industry of the time. It’s likely that were quite a few anomalies the loggers were tight lipped about, especially around the kids.

What was seen in Louisiana in 1948? An escapee from a banana boat or an unidentified and unknown new species?

The goliath bird-eating tarantula (Theraphosa blondi) from Surinam, Guyana, French Guiana, Venezuela, and Brazil use to be said to be the world’s largest species. Today, the pinkfoot goliath tarantula (Theraphosa apophysis), which was discovered 187 years after the goliath birdeater, takes the prize in size. Some of these have legspans of up to 13 inches long. The males of most tarantulas are longer legged than the females.

Are larger ones to be found?

Are there new species of spiders out there that are bigger than dinner plates or a washtub?

Or something else?

The comments below are from the original 2006 and 2008 postings, and have been retained for discussion purposes.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

59 Responses to “Camel Spiders and Other Alleged Giant Spiders”

  1. MattBille responds:

    It seems hard to construct a physiologically possible giant land-dwelling arachnid (or insect, for that matter). The exoskeleton would have to get disproportionately heavy, and the breathing system of these creatures is terribly inefficient and would not scale up. (The giant bugs of pre-Mesozoic days evolved in a more oxygen-rich atmosphere.) If there is, say, a dog-sized spider, it has to have evolved a great deal.

  2. Dark-Obsessor responds:

    I agree with MattBille.

    Not to mention the fact that any insect even as big as a dinner plate would send me to a psychiatrist for psychological scarring… :-p

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    Some quick points before this turns into a skeptical lovefest and people take to heart Matt’s and DO’s use of “insects” and “bugs.”

    Let’s remember, spiders are not insects.

    Spiders may be able to get bigger than those discovered thusfar.

    And what would people speculate “looks like” a spider that is four feet wide crossing an African road?

  4. smylex responds:

    sounds pretty sick to me.

  5. greatanarch responds:

    The Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge used to display the remains of a ‘spider’ that would have been nearly a meter across the legs. Sadly, the last time I looked in it had been re-identified as a sea-scorpion or similar.

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    Yes, the giant prehistoric monster, Megarachne servinei, which was believed to have been the size of a small dog and was widely regarded as the biggest and most terrifying spider ever measuring more than a meter in length with 50 cm legs, was actually a sea scorpion, it was reported in 2005.

  7. twblack responds:

    Well one thing for sure if my wife would ever see one of these huge spiders I would not have a living spouse anymore she is terrified of spiders.

  8. cfcbhoy responds:

    I think the most interesting large spider discovered of late would be the chicken eating spider.

    Was considered a myth, locals telling tales of a spider the size of a dinner plate that would attack chickens and chase people.

    Horrific looking creature, and strange for spiders in that it lives with its spiderlings in a single burrow. Saw a documentary on it and there was a small frog living in there too.

    Havent heard much about it for a couple of years strangely enough.

  9. ToddPartain responds:

    Folks, I do not claim to understand the physiology that would be necessary to allow for the existence of a washtub sized spider. I put forward only this. I have never known my father to lie to me. If he stated he saw a huge arachnid on the side of a Louisiana Highway in 1948, you can bet he truly believed that was what he saw. I have more research to do, since there was another relative present who is still alive and was much older than my Father at the time of the sighting. I will report to Loren as soon as I have made contact with this relative and determined that he:

    1. can remember the incident

    2. is comfortable speaking about it and having it published on the net and in print.

    Thank You

  10. sausage1 responds:

    tw, Couldn’t she just wash it down the plughole?

  11. JeremyWells responds:

    Great, now I have something even scarier than the (very real) giant flying cockroaches I thought were a myth before moving to Texas.

  12. Mnynames responds:

    If they weren’t/couldn’t be spiders, then maybe they are scorpions or solifugids?

    As for systems not scaling up well, I’m not so sure. Fish frankly suck at breathing air, yet from them came the Amphibians. Given enough time and the opportunity, life will find a way.

  13. RaptorJedi responds:

    The major factors as to why arachnids can’t reach the larger sizes reported by some of these people are their open circulatory systems, and their respiratory systems. So their blood and the way they breathe prevents from ever getting to big, and I’m sure oxygen content in the atmosphere and gravity play their parts as well. The evolutionary changes required to allow them to reach the size of a dog are just too big to seem feasible, at least to me.

  14. traveler responds:

    well another time for me to input..I was born in Colombia, and lived deep in the Jungle for several years with my family. My father was a jungle explorer. One time when he and my sister were out turkey hunting, the came across a very large tarantula/spider on a log. He said that is body was the size of a paper plate. It was black with orange stripes. I also have had a spider encounter in the Andes Mountains where my school base was…not sure of the size, as most things seem enormous at a young age but it was very big to me. I was walking on a trail through the banana patch at our school when i went around a turn in the train and almost ran into a web that stretched across the entire trail. In the center was a spider that was white with orange and bright, neon green stripes. It seemed to me to be as large as my face. I did a quick 180 and took off. It scared me so bad I can still see it.

  15. traveler responds:

    Not really a giant spider, but interesting none the less. My father said that while he was doing some river explorations, there was a small brown spider that was quite common. It would be found on branches, in their gear, etc. they never thought much of it. One day one of my father’s partners swatted at one that was by him and it reared up and bit him on the finger. He said that his finger swelled up so fast that they actually watched the skin split and it felt like fire going up his arm. I’m not sure what happened after that, but I know the guy lived and kept his finger.

  16. charlie23 responds:

    “in the center was a spider that was white with orange and bright, neon green stripes…it seemed to me to be as large as my face..”

    When I was a child one of these same spiders lived in our garden in East Texas. It’s a type of orb weaver and they do indeed grow quite large, although not quite as big as your face :)

    Strangely I can’t seem to find a photo of the particular species online. Pity because they are quite beautiful: enough that my normally arachnophobic mother tolerated it and was somewhat dissapointed when it dissapeared after a few weeks.

  17. crypto_randz responds:

    Great job once again Loren on getting a good topic. Giant Spiders interesting topic to discuss. I’ll tell you one thing those are some huge spiders those soldiers are holding. You all have good opinions on this subject. I don’t know what to say. Sizes of spiders I guess vary in different locations around the world. Warm climates can generate these specimens.

  18. harleyb responds:

    I dont’t like spiders they don’t like humans either I’m sorry if I seen any big spiders around me I’m shooting it with the

  19. MontanaJon responds:

    I’m sorry but there’s one creature on this planet that I believe we could live without and that’s Spiders.

  20. harleyb responds:

    Let’s put it this way I’d rather be punched in the face by Sasquatch than be touched or bitten by a spider. Spiderman rules though!!

  21. afigbee responds:

    I live in eastern Iowa along the Mississippi.

    Around here there is a giant spider at least twelve inches across. I’ve seen them twice, once in 1960s and once in the 1980s. They’re very rare, though a lot of other people have seen them. They are always very disturbed by it. They appear in garages and barns, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve never been collected. The minute anyone sees the damn thing they kill it with a shovel. Few people would be nuts enough to try to catch it and risk either getting bitten or having it escape.

    How could you sleep knowing a thing like that is creeping around the house somewhere?

  22. Mnynames responds:

    My father and some of my family’s friends are Vietnam vets and they spoke of hearing about (One may have been a personal eyewitness, but it’s been so long ago that I can’t say for sure, so I’m classifying it as hearsay for now) giant centipedes/millipedes in the jungle that could reach lengths of 3 feet. Most spoke of them rather matter-of-factly, as if everyone knew of them, and I believe they were also mentioned as being poisonous. Does anyone know of any creatures coming even close to this, or do we have a Vietnam era version of this urban legend?

  23. traveler responds:

    We had the same centipede things in Colombia. I have seen them myself on several occasions. They indeed do grow that large, and the bite burns like acid. I have been bitten by smaller versions, not sure if they were juveniles or different species. I didn’t think that they would have them in Asia, but why not?

  24. cfcbhoy responds:

    “I’m sorry but there’s one creature on this planet that I believe we could live without and that’s Spiders.”

    Yeah if you want your world infested with insects.

    I hate spiders, but they play a HUGE role in the eco system.

  25. shumway10973 responds:

    the only way I can think of that a spider could get any bigger is if the exoskeleton was “constructed” out of a new or different material than most other spiders. As for their breathing, well, I have found that mother nature rarely works in the fashion that our rules say she does. So their lungs or what ever they have, is more evolved like ours or something, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. If mother nature worked the way our rules says she should, we wouldn’t be meeting on this site.

  26. harleyb responds:

    that’s real really real.

  27. ivebeenassimilated responds:

    Take another look at the picture at the top of the page. On the right hand side of the picture you can see the cuff of a man’s sleeve belonging to the hand that is holding them. This picture is an extreme close up. The spiders while big, are not nearly as big as they first appear.

  28. Aaronious responds:

    Hello all –
    I am an entomologist/zoologist and I do spider identification at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science when I have time.

    On the topic of giant spiders – I’d love to see one, but I doubt very much that they exist. As has been mentioned, their respiratory system is a limiting factor, as it works in known spiders. Another factor GSs would have to overcome would be desiccation. Spiders are much more susceptible to this than insects. Also, blood pressure would be an issue. Spiders use their muscles to contract their legs and they use blood pressure to extend their legs (that is why their legs always curl up after death). I think, given millions upon millions of years of evolution (spiders and insects were around LONG before dinosaurs and look who is still here), if spiders had evolved to larger sizes, mammals would not have had a chance to get going.

    Notes on other’s comments
    The spider with the large orb webs are probably an Argiope. They get some of the largest orb webs of the world.

    Centipedes/Millipedes: I have not ever heard of any getting to a yard in length, but I have handled some millipedes from around the world that were about a foot long w/ a girth of close to three inches. There are some species of millipedes that can exude a toxin from their body joints as a defensive maneuver.

    It has been documented that some tarantulas (and wolfspiders) have some parental care before the young go off into the world. A burrowing tarantula in South America keeps its young in the burrow until they leave en mass. It is not known what triggers the departure. Wolfspiders (lycosidae) around the world carry the egg sack until all the spiderlings hatch out, then the young ride around on their mother’s back until they get bigger. Scorpions do this too.

    I work with a sulifugid expert at the museum, and he laughs every time he sees a picture from the war of forced perspective of the camel spider. They don’t get bigger than your hand, but the photos are nice. The one at the top is of a mated pair, by the way.

    As for their ecological importance, it is estimated that there are enough spiders on this planet to average 100 per square foot. Their primary food source is other spiders, but also many insects. They are on every continent except Antarctica, and they are in every habitat except the extreme poles and mountain tops well over 14,000 feet (I’ve climbed several in Colorado and there are a few black lycosids at the top of our mountains which are barely over 14K).

    Instead of being creeped out, you should enjoy the beauty of these animals. I can’t think of any other animal that has been able to remain terrestrial and still hunt winged prey (ok, man, but spiders do it with only what they can make from their bodies). The courtship behaviors of jumping spiders (salticidae) are very elaborate with waving arms, strumming bodies, songs and dances etc. Spider silk is still an amazing invention. Our closest concoction is Teflon, and that involves boiling sulphuric acid baths – you give a spider a cricket at one end and get silk at the other end, all at room temperature. I think people who threaten spiders w/ shovels and guns, while entitled to their opinion, are missing the real beauty and joy in the world. But, kill all you want, you’re not impacting their populations at all. 😉

  29. Aaronious responds:

    What could have crossed the trail that looked like a spider and was the size of a monkey? I doubt it was an invertebrate, but if it was, perhaps a lobster? There are some terrestrial lobsters and they grow their entire lives. I’m shooting from the hip w/ that answer. I know they are slow moving and not hairy, but in all honesty, I can’t think of an invert that big. When Europeans arrived in the new world, they reported lobsters on the beaches over three feet in length, sitting on the beaches. There is also a lobster that climbs trees – I think it is the rubber tree lobster, but I can’t recall for sure.

  30. afigbee responds:

    Here in eastern Iowa there is also a millipede of about ten inches long that I have seen often down by the river. It really is ten inches long.

  31. aastra responds:

    I think a coconut crab would be very easy to mistake for a giant spider, especially at night, or while it was climbing a tree.

  32. traveler responds:

    well all i can say is that what my dad saw was big, and a spider/tarantula

  33. traveler responds:

    I was watching national geographic today and it had something about the south american centipede that grew to lengths of over a foot and preyed upon lizards and rats using strong venom.

  34. hammerhead responds:

    When I was a child, about the late 60’s, I spent alot of time wth my grandparents in southern Ill., my grandfather kept a large catfish he had caught in an old stone lined well in his backyard, he fed it dogfood and such and regarded it as some kind of pet of sorts. Well one day we went out back to feed this fish, they kept the well covered with boards, as we were lifting the boards off of the mouth of the well I remember this spider crawling out, it was like a smaller version of a tarantula of some kind, but when I say small, I don’t mean like a small spider, small for a tarantula. It was a very dark brown or black with brilliant fat red bands up its legs and around its body. What I remember most was being frozen in absolute horror as this thing crawled out of this well, it moved like a tarantula moves, and was built like one as well, anyone familiar with tarantulas will know what I mean with this, it was approximately the size of the round end of a soda can, its body about the size of a nickle. I was raised knowing the outdoors and am familiar with what belongs and what doesn’t and this thing didn’t belong. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since, and have tried to identify this spider ever since with no luck. Unfortunately the experience ended with my uncle flattening the spider with a board, the weird thing was that no one ever commented on it whatsoever, and really I believe that most encounters with cryptids and such end up in this manner, smashed, killed, and never spoken of.

  35. bccryptid responds:

    Is there not a wartime story from Paupa New Guinea by an Australian soldier, of finding himself crawling on top of a huge ground web, and coming face to face with it’s owner, an extremely large (but not monster-movie big) spider?

    And unfortunately, the giant Iraqi spiders myth is growing legs 😉

    Cindy Sheenan referred to them in a recent post, in reference to the various hardships the soldiers had to deal with over there, she mentioned ‘spiders the size of puppies’.

  36. afigbee responds:

    These two pictures might show the spider in southern Illinois,

    Picture 1

    Picture 2

  37. kittenz responds:


    Crabs are arthropods. So are spiders. Land crabs can be a foot across. Some marine crabs are much bigger, and they can survive on land for a time so long as they are close to water. It’s conceivable that large crabs could be mistaken for spiders, especially if the crab was in an location where crabs are not usually found. People being terrestrial creatures, most people, confronted suddenly with a round-bodied, many-legged arthropod, would think “spider”. Perhaps the “giant spider” in Louisiana was a large crab covered with spanish moss? Or even a fungal infection on its shell that looked like black hairy growth?

    On the other hand, couldn’t some species of spiders have evolved a thicker, tougher exoskeleton, similar to that of land crabs? Larger animals are generally more rare than smaller ones, and giant spiders would probably require quite a bit of territory in which to live and hunt. I think that as the remote forested areas of the Earth become more exposed and studied, many more species will be discovered. It would not surprise me if some of those species are huge spiders.

  38. ratz061 responds:

    I live in Southwest Arizona and have seen an arachnid called a,”Sun Scorpion.” or solpugidae (spelling).

    The creatures in the first photograph appear to me to be exceedingly large examples of the Sun Scorpion. Note: The Sun Scorpions here have head and thorax that are only an inch or so long. These look MUCH bigger. Glad they are over there!

  39. centipede responds:

    traveler says

    We had the same centipede things in Colombia. I have seen them myself on several occasions. They indeed do grow that large, and the bite burns like acid. I have been bitten by smaller versions, not sure if they were juveniles or different species. I didn’t think that they would have them in Asia, but why not?

    Traveler, if you could give me as much info on these centipedes as you could from Columbia, like description, location, and everything else, I would be most grateful!

  40. oldbob39 responds:

    Let me open by saying that I am as freaked as any of you by an unexpected encounter with a spider, with the exception of the little jumping spiders, which seem so personable and cute. I grew up in northern Wyoming, with a back yard field that was pockmarked with burrows some 5/8 to 3/4 inch diam., housing spiders we called tarantulas, but technically were not. Sometimes the spiders came into the dooryard, or even (when it rained heavily) into the house. I would have sworn they spanned 6 inches, but in retrospect, I think 2.5 would have been a better bet. They did, as someone remarked, carry their babies on their backs, which gave their abdomens a huge and very weird “lumpy” appearance. So I have a long history of arachnophobia. I’m fascinated by them, but scared spitless when I encounter a big one by surprise.

    Now to the point: I am extremely skeptical of the giants that are being reported here, and the reason is that the size of very large (or small) creatures of any sort involves something called the “square-cube law” I’m surprised that nobody addressed it in all these posts. Basically, it says that if you scale something up without changing the proportions, (and that phrase is important to remember) the mass goes up by the cube of the linear scale factor, but the cross sectional area of any component goes up by the square of the factor. So, if you double the body length, all proportions remaining the same, the mass is 8 times greater, but the cross-section of the legs is four times greater. The stresses on the exoskeleton and the muscles is twice as great. Now, since the legs are correspondingly longer, too, the bending moments are proportionately greater. It works across the board, and explains why elephants have legs that are proportionately much bigger than springboks, and why springboks spring but elephants (reportedly) cannot jump at all, as well as why skinny little 14-year-old figure skaters with legs the size of your wrists can do those awesome triple-lutzes that Arnie Schwarzenegger could never do. So a spider, to scale up to dinner-plate size, will inevitably have disproportionately large-diameter legs, compared to a small one. (this is based on the assumption that nature designs things efficiently: the exoskeletons and muscles of your typical house spider are about as efficient, powerful, and light as nature knows how to make them. So if you scale them up, for example, the exoskeleton is not going to miraculously become ten times stronger in compressive strength than the house spider. I’m talking strength in pounds per square inch or whatever unit system you choose. Remember, I’m an engineer, used to working out designs that don’t break, without invoking miracles.) So how do king crabs function? they live in sea water, so the weight those incredible long legs have to carry is decreased by the partial buoyancy of their bodies. Crabs that live on land do not have 2-foot-long legs. They are short and compact. So I am extremely skeptical about super-size spiders.

    How about a giant orb-weaver making a giant web? Read up on how they build them, and consider how that web might be made and what the scaffolding might have to consist of. I’m still skeptical.

    But how about the foot-long centipedes and millipedes? Many, many legs, relatively short. Scale up your everyday household centipede and the legs need not be visually disproportionate, especially if the number of segments increases. I don’t have a problem dealing with centipedes and millipedes a foot long, even two feet.

    Are they poisonous the humans? I read one post that sounded like the bite of a Brown Recluse. Many spiders give unpleasant bites, black widows bites can be deadly, but the brown recluse is really, really nasty. I knew a fellow that was bitten by one, and I find the story of the fellow whose skin split from the swelling to be quite believable. They are found in the US. The reaction sounds, actually, like some sort of horrifying immune reaction, rather than the result of some injection of a proportionate volume of digestive enzyme or whatever. They just aren’t that big. But I suggest that if you don’t like spiders, you look up “Brown Recluse” and learn what they look like. Just in case…

  41. shartexas responds:

    Years ago a friend told me about seeing a giant spider crossing the road in a remote region, in the Black Hills of the Dakotas. She said her whole family witnessed it and that the spider was almost as large as the road, or almost as large as one lane of the road (I can’t remember the size she described, but it was unbelievably large). She was very serious when telling the story and swore it was the truth. I pretended to believe her but in reality, I dismissed the account as a bunch of hogwash. Now that I know that others have reported seeing giant spiders, I’m not so sure. Maybe I thought my friend was crazy when really she wasn’t.

  42. shartexas responds:

    I love spiders. I find them very interesting and always welcome having them in my house and yard. I’ve also had a tarantula as a pet and he was fascinating, but a phobic friend moved in with me and I had to release my tarantula back into the wild, where I had caught him.

  43. easy69 responds:

    So about those camel spiders, a lot of those “factoids” are actually true. I was there with the military twice and saw one, about the size of a puppy, running alongside my hummer. Freakin scariest thing i have ever seen! And I know a guy who still has scars all over his face from having a camel spider gnawing at him while he slept. I don’t know how you mentally recover from that. But they are not as dangerous as people think, once I saw a small scorpion beat the crap outta one (actually lost 10 bucks on that.) One of our interpreters claimed that in the middle of the desert the spiders actually grew to the size of camels! And camel herders would suddenly hear one of their animals yelp and disappear into an underground nest of one of these massive spiders. I’m sure that isn’t true, but it sure would be cool if it was wouldn’t it?

  44. mystery_man responds:

    Spiders or any arthropods have limits to their size, especially terrestrial ones. It’s not only the respiratory system either. I’ve mentioned this on the site before, but here goes again. Simply pout, the exoskeleton (what basically makes an arthropod an arthropod), is a major limiting factor in addition to respiratory issues.

    Let me explain. The function of muscular strength is more or less a factor of the muscle girth at its widest point. So therefore, as an exoskeleton grows, its dimensions grow in three dimensions while the effective muscular strength only grows in two (the diameter of the muscle at its widest point). So the exoskeleton gets heavier and heavier while the relative muscular power gets weaker and weaker in comparison. At some point, the arthropod in question is going to get to the stage where its exoskeleton is just too heavy to carry around anymore and the only way to keep up will be for the muscles to burst out of the shell. It will get to the point where it won’t be able to move or it will die.

    The reason marine arthropods get so big is because they have water to help support the weight. And the reason prehistoric terrestrial arthropods got so big is attributed to the different dynamics of oxygen in the atmosphere.

    So I am sure that spiders can perhaps reach bigger than recorded sizes, but not only is there the respiratory limitations, but physics places a very real limitation on the size that arthropods can reach. I’m sorry, but I am highly skeptical of dog sized terrestrial spiders.

  45. Richard888 responds:

    I found your first article very interesting.

    The ‘exoskeleton cubed-muscular strength squared’ rule doesn’t seem to have affected the Coconut Crab :-)

  46. mystery_man responds:

    Richard88- I didn’t say the coconut crab was out of acceptable limits. As a matter of fact, I just said that arthropods the size of dogs was unlikely. What makes you think I was talking about coconut crabs? The fact is that there are physical restraints on land arthropod sizes. But I didn’t say anything about the coconut crab. It is certainly not the size of some of the giant spiders reported.

  47. mystery_man responds:

    Richard88- Anyway, the exoskeleton rule DOES affect the coconut crab. That’s why there is a certain limit to its size. They are about as big as you are going to find on land, I would say. I’m not making any of this up. It is simple physics.

  48. Shane Durgee responds:

    I remember reading a little tidbit in some paranormal magazine, maybe Strange Magazine, about a giant spider sighted in Zaire around the turn of the twentieth century.

    If I remember it correctly, the explorer thought it was a wizened pygmy making his way through the swamps ahead. When he got close he saw that it was in fact a massive spider.

    Also, with this flashback I’m surprised no one has updated it with the spider caught in the orb weaver’s web: horrifying

  49. deadx responds:

    I was a Green Beret in Viet Nam in 1970. On a mission in Cambodia one night I heard a stealthy sound as everyone else was sleeping and thought at first it was a Viet Cong woodcutter lost in the woods at night but very quickly realized whatever had made the noise had more than 4 legs. From what I could see with my night vision trained eyes it was an animal with several shiny black eyes squatted in front of me at about 10 feet. I took my weapon off “safe” and pointed it at the creature which I estimate was about the size of a 4 wheel ATV. After several terrifying minutes the thing just simply vanished into the woods. I was so scared that my ears were roaring and I couldn’t hear anything for awhile after it left. I didn’t know for sure what I had seen as it was just too implausible but after reading about R.E. Lloyd’s experience in the Congo in a book several years ago I got goosebumps and knew that I wasn’t imagining anything.

  50. mystery_man responds:

    Oldbob39- I just read your post and that is EXACTLY what I was trying to explain in my own post above that came after yours. Very nice, concise explanation you gave and spot on! I actually teach biology and in my opinion, your explanation was textbook perfect. Good post.

    I too think that spiders cannot really be compared with a terrestrial crustacean like the coconut crab. They have two very different body designs, and even with the coconut crab you are pushing the limits of the size a land arthropod could physically reach. Also, if anyone looks at how a coconut crab moves, they are not swift or stealthy at all. They are actually rather awkward and slow, precisely because they are so big, with heavy, unwieldy exoskeletons. You just are not going to get an arthropod that big scurrying around with any sort of speed.

    In my opinion, based on the biology and physics involved, a spider is unlikely to get much bigger than the current record holders. Spiders the size of dogs or bigger are just not probable at all. It is exactly the same reason why I am very skeptical of giant spiders.

    Nevertheless, deadx, your story has officially freaked me out. Thanks for the nightmares tonight. :)

  51. sschaper responds:

    EasternIowa, come spring, catch one of those millipedes and be prepared to catch or preserve the squished body of one of those spiders. Maybe offer a very small reward. I bet the correspondent in Colorado would be interested.

  52. kittenz responds:

    I think that it would be very easy to mistake a big land crab for a giant spider. On the other hand, land crabs are arthropods too, and if a giant land crab with a body a foot across can exist, why not a giant spider? The term “giant” meaning, say, cat-sized) I don’t think it’s physiologically possible for any land-dwelling arthropod to be much bigger than that, but if a spider’s body was cat-sized, its legspan could conceivably be two feet or so.

  53. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    No fan of spiders here but I’m not particularly afraid of them either.

    I don’t have any spider stories to share but I think it is important to point out the many personal experiences shared in this column by those who have encountered spiders (as well as other insects) of incredibly large size! I mean, we often accept the friend of a friend’s account about bigfoot, and we have here people who have witnessed first hand giant spiders! I realize and appreciate the argument that limit the size of such creatures and I don’t discount them, but are we absolutely sure that such creatures, no matter how improbable, cannot exist? Is it possible that some unknown biological adaptation might allow a spider to grow to such a large size? Spiders are, after all, one of the most successful species ever created, perhaps we should not too quickly dismiss such eyewitness descriptions?

  54. wisaaka responds:

    Giant spiders are possible, one can argue based on current knowledge of spider mechanics that its impossible, but if the animal is real and unknown then the argument is moot. I agree that an arachnid in its currently known physical layout would be impossibly unwieldy at say anything over 18″-24″.

    However,the discussion isn’t really arguing that, from what I understand the topic is about a giant spider that is yet unclassified, perhaps we could discuss how a spider could reach those lengths with adaptation and what that the most likely adaptations or changes in body structure that would entail. That would be insightful.

    Anyhoo, on William J. Gibbons is quoted as saying (from his expedition report from the congo in search of Mokele Mbembe):

    “In 1938, Mr. & Mrs. R.K. Lloyd of London, England were driving along a forest road in the former Belgian Congo, when they became aware of a large animate object moving across the road ahead of them. At first they took the object to be a large monkey or jungle cat. However, as they approached the creature, the Lloyd’s curiosity turned to horror as they came face-to-face with a gigantic brown spider. Mr. Lloyd attempted unsuccessfully to retrieve his camera as the giant arachnid simply walked into the forest and disappeared. On this third expedition to Equatorial Africa, I (Gibbons) took the opportunity to enquire if the pygmies knew of such a creature, and indeed they did! The Baka word for spider is Fofi (pronounced foo fee), and Jba means ‘great.’ They speak of the Jba Fofi, which is a ‘giant’ or ‘great spider’. They described a spider that is generally brown in color with a purple abdomen. They grow to quite an enormous size with a leg span of at least five feet. The giant arachnids weave together a lair made of leaves similar in shape to a traditional pygmy hut, and spin a circular web (said to be very strong) between two trees with a strand stretched across a game trail. These giant ground-dwelling spiders prey on the diminutive forest antelope (duiker), birds, and other small game, and are said to be extremely dangerous, not to mention highly venomous. The spiders are said to lay white, peanut-sized eggs in a cluster, and the pygmies give them a wide birth when encountered, but have killed them in the past. The giant spiders were once very common but are now a rare sight. Their dwindling numbers are blamed on the continuing deforestation of their habitat, but they are still encountered from time to time. The Baka chief, Timbo, casually mentioned to us that a giant spider had taken up residence in the forest just behind his village in November 2000, when I (Gibbons) and Dave Woetzel from New Hampshire had visited him! He did not think that we would have been interested in the creature as our interest was focused on Mokele-mbembe at the time! Valuable evidence had eluded us.”

    I have heard that the louisiana spider doesn’t exist, but the J’ba Fofi (congo spider) does in fact exist, and reaches size of about 10 feet.

  55. rattmotor responds:

    I think giant spiders are possible because of two exteremely large spiders I have seen where I live, and I have witnesses that can back me up. I am from eastern Maryland and when I was out in the woods once years ago, I kicked over a hollowed out dead and rotted tree trunk, and out from the center came a spider that I never had seen or seen since, it may have been a new species for all I know, but it was perfectly camoflauged with the color of the rotted wood, and wasn’t noticeable until it ran past my boot, but I got a real good look at it as it stopped for a minute and so did two buddies that were there with me. It was about 6 inches from my boot, and it was larger than the boot I was wearing, and I wear a size 12. It wasn’t heavy built like a tarantula, but its legspan was huge for a spider, it was about 15 inches, we tried to catch it but it was as quick as lightning. I know some will think this is impossible for around here, but I know what I saw, we still talk about that spider almost 20 years later. I also once captured a wolf spider that was really big, I measured it and it came in at about 10 inches, I found it living under a piece of plywood, Im not sure if this is common but its the biggest wolf spider I ever saw.

  56. Shadmin responds:

    A wolf spider 10″ across would be a Guinness World Record and would be the largest wolf spider in the world! A specimen of a spider which was that size would be worth a fair amount of money to science, dead or alive! As far as reports of “giant” arachnids in the rainforested areas of the globe it is entirely possible for them to exist, regardless of arguments to the contrary! The current oxygen level of our atmosphere is thought to limit the size of fauna with exoskeletons due to an inability to absorb the quantity of oxygen which would be necessary for an animal of that size to survive? However, when we look at nature and see the incredible diversity of adaptation manifested by lifeforms here on earth we cannot simply discount the possibility of some type of adaptation which has allowed for the survival of a giant species of arachnid into modern times? While I would be loathe to encounter a spider the size of a dog or larger while trekking through the rainforest, it would still be fascinating nevertheless!

  57. tankapotamus responds:

    hey i saw a huge spider not but a few hours ago..

    actually i got on the computer to identify it and ended up on this site and made an account just to share this..

    i live in southern louisiana, lafayette louisiana to be exact, i went in my backyard to cut my grass when i noticed a giant yellow web over a meter wide connecting my shed, my fence, and a tree. i checked it out for a while pretty amazed at it but didnt see a spider. I reached up and touched one of the thicker strands and noticed it was ridiculously strong. so i went in my shed, grabbed my hedge trimmers and cut a branch ab a 1/2 inch thick that had some web connected to it. the strands actually caught the branch and it just swung back and forth. then i looked up and saw what i have definately identified as a golden orb weaver spider with a leg span larger than my hand just sitting in a patch of leaves on one of the branches. it was actually quite beautiful, bright yellow and white with some red on it’s legs. I tried to take a picture of it with my phone but the only angle that didnt require me to stand directly beneath had the sun directly behind it and they wouldnt come out right..

    it was then time to cut the grass so i grabbed my shovel out of the shed and knocked him out his web. This spider actually made a pretty loud thump when it hit the ground. at this point i got scared it would run at me or something and i chopped it in half with the shovel. :/ i went back later and located the tiny little male.

    i promise im not blowing this up at all this spider was definately bigger than my hand and i could easily see it catching a bird in that web and it was more than big enough to eat it.


  58. senua responds:

    There was a giant Millipede type animal called Arthropleura that lived during the Carboniferous Period about 354 million years ago. It is estimated to have reached a size of about 2.6 meters. It lived in the coal forests along with the giant dragonfly Meganeura with a wingspan of about 75 cm. Of course smaller insects and arthropods existed at the same time, it’d just the bigger fossils are the ones that get noticed.

    Some think it might have been an increase in Oxygen that caused them to grow large but not every-one agrees.

    Here’s a couple of links that might be of interest.

    When Giants Had Wings and 6 Legs

    Atmospheric oxygen level and the evolution of insect body size

    Megarachne was once thought to have been the biggest spider ever found but it has since been realised that it was a Eurypterid or Sea Scorpion. If it had been a spider it would have been quite large as it’s body estimated to be over 30cm in diameter.

    Megarachne, the Giant Spider That Wasn’t

    The true identity of the supposed giant fossil spider Megarachne

    The Eurypterids could grow very large though.

    Fossil of Biggest Bug Ever: 8 Feet Long

    As far as large spiders go there are a few that are a fair size but the physics seem to be against any spider being really large unless it has evolved completely differently somehow from other spiders. It would somehow have to have an internal skeleton surely to be as large as some people are claiming.

    Interesting link about some big spiders.

    Nice little video clip.

    The biggest spider I’ve seen had a leg span the size of my palm. This doesn’t sound like much but it is if you live in the UK.

    Happy spider hunting.

  59. mrmaxima responds:

    My father in law was also in the Vietnam war his 5 man unit did scout work in the jungle and were out for mints at a time. A little about my father in law I have known him for many years and have NEVER known him to lie or make up stories. He rarely talks of the war thinks it was a waste of to many American lives. While in the jungle there he swears he saw spiders with a body the size of a common dinner plate says with the legs they overall span ranged 20-30″ inches across he says he saw more than one always near creeks or water sources. Also said they scared the hell out of the entire unit they shot a few with their M16’s and unloaded full magazines and they were still moving around. Just thought I’d add this to your interesting post. I feel where there is a will life will always find a way there are living things in every environment known and unknown to man! We as mankind have only found an estimated 25% of the total spicies on this planet. So how do we know some of the spiders didn’t evolve in a different way? I will take my father in laws word as truth till someone finds one of the spiders he saw or I die witch ever may come first. Just my input I look forward to reading more of your replys.

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