What other creatures remain to be discovered?
-The Voice before the Void
“Giant huntsman spider”
The giant huntsman spider (Heteropoda maxima, “the largest”) is a species of huntsman spider (Sparassidae), a family of large, fast spiders that actively hunt down prey. It is considered the world’s largest spider by leg span, which can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimeters).
1. Taxonomy and naming
The giant huntsman spider was discovered in a cave in Laos in 2001. Over a thousand new species of plant and animal were found between 1997 and 2007 in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
A representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that “some of these species really have no business being recently discovered,” suggesting that it is surprising for such a large species to go undiscovered for so long.
The coloration is yellowish-brown with several irregularly distributed dark spots on the rear half. The legs have wide dark bands before the first bend. Like all huntsman spiders, the legs of the giant huntsman spider are long compared to the body, and twist forward in a crab-like fashion.
Apart from its size, the H. maxima can be distinguished from other species of Heteropoda by genital characteristics. On males, the cymbium is much longer than usual, at least three times longer than the tegulum. The female is distinguished by a characteristically shaped epigyneal field with two anterior directed bands, and the course of their internal ducts.
The giant huntsman spider is the largest member of the Sparassidae family, boasting a 30 centimeters (12 inches) leg-span, and 4.6 centimeters (1.8 inches) body-length. The largest known member of the Sparassidae known prior to the discovery of H. maxima was the Australian Beregama aurea (L. Koch, 1875) with a body length of about 4 centimeters. (Since the discovery of H. maxima, Sparassidae species larger than B. aurea have been discovered. One of them, Cerbalus aravaensis, is considered to be the largest in the Middle East.)
3. Distribution and habitat
The giant huntsman spider is found in Laos, and is probably a cave dweller because of its pale colour, long legs and special hairs on the second foot of the male. There is no apparent reduction of the eyes, however, possibly because the species lives near cave entrances.