Sunday, 9 August 2009

Giant Spiders

Bill Gibbons, he of Mokele Mbmeme fame, has also recorded stories of another cryptid in the jungles of Africa (in this case the Democratic Republic of Congo): a giant spider.

"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)."

Certainly doesn't make me want to take a trip through the Congo without a very large gun!

I will admit to having a soft spot for movies like Eight Legged Freaks

So is there any more evidence for this massive creature? Not really... the "facts" as far as they can be ascertained, thanks to Karl Shuker's Extraordinary Animals Revisited, are that the spider is claimed by members of the Bake pygmy tribe of the area to be yellow with a purple abdomen when a spiderling, growing to up to 3 feet in length and brown in colour as an adult. Its eggs are supposed to be the size of peanuts. It builds hides that resemble the huts of the local tribes, and is supposed to be able to build webs that are capable of capturing birds and small forest antelopes. It has been said to eat humans if given the chance.

There are also other stories. Monster Quest recently did a show on giant spiders in the Amazon said to be big enough to attack even humans but mainly "livestock" (for which read chickens). This is pretty similar to reports, now quite likely substantiated, of a Chicken Eating Spider which appears to exhibit the strange, for a spider, behaviour of communal living and hunting!

The problem with spiders getting to any size much bigger than a dinner plate is the level of oxygen in the atmosphere. This causes problems with the growth of land invertebrates (as per this article) which is why in the past we had giant dragonflies and arachnids but not anymore. However evolution is a tricky process and will often throw up some new way of overcoming such problems.

More Arachnid Stories:

Still On The Track: Attack of the Camel Spider

Still On The Track: The Fearsome Frog-Eating Spider of Epping Forest

Cryptomundo: Flashback: Camel Spiders and Other Giant Spiders. Check out the giant spider in Louisiana!

Further Reading

Invertebrata Enigmatica: Giant Spiders, Dangerous Insects, and Other Strange Invertebrates in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy - Chad Arment (Editor) (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

Extraordinary Animals Revisited - Karl P. Shuker (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

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1 comment:

Naveed said...

I so love the idea of giant spiders. It's such a shame they don't exist. However if an arachnid somehow managed to evolve something more efficient to breath with besides book lungs, just maybe they'd have a chance at existence.