AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from August 7, 2019 by Ripped Animals which featured a giant spider bigger than a man’s hand. The post stated “Nightmare Alert – This 32cm huntsman was captured in the small town of Hotham just east of Darwin yesterday afternoon! As seen on channel 7 news this morning.”
The Ripped Animals Facebook page has over 42,300 likes and states it “features some of the most aesthetic creatures the world has to offer”.
The spider post had been shared over 200 times and received more than 1400 comments and 300 reactions. Many comments questioned the authenticity of the post.
AAP FactCheck found there is no town named Hotham near Darwin or anywhere in the Northern Territory. The only Hotham in Australia is in Victoria and is “one of Australia’s highest alpine villages”.
There is a Cape Hotham Lighthouse on the shores of the Timor Sea on a long unnamed peninsula about 80km northeast of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The Hotham lighthouse marks the entrance to Clarence Strait, the eastern approach to Darwin.
AAP FactCheck found no Channel 7 news report about this image of a giant huntsman spider, found near Darwin or anywhere else.
According to the Australian Museum, huntsman are large, long-legged spiders which live under loose bark on trees, in crevices on rock walls and in logs and are notorious for entering houses and cars.
The Queensland Museum states the huntsman is perhaps Australia’s largest and most feared spider because of its large size and ability to quickly run across walls and ceilings. “The first two pairs of legs are usually the longest pairs and the legs tend to go sideways from the body,” Queensland Museum’s website states.
The Facebook spider image did not match this description of a huntsman with the first two pairs of legs being the longest.
AAP FactCheck traced the image of the spider alongside the man’s hand back to a Facebook post from November 11, 2015 by the Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula Club. The post was shared over 60 times and a number of the 40 comments questioned whether the image had been photoshopped to enhance the size of the spider. The same image is used as one of the page’s profile photos.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC, the Goliath birdeater tarantula is the biggest tarantula in the world. The body measures up to 12cm with a leg span of up to 28cm. This description better matched the image in the Facebook post.
The institute also stated the Goliath birdeater lives in the rainforest regions of northern South America, including Venezuela, northern Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname.
AAP FactCheck found the same image had been used by a number of websites and social media posts to illustrate the goliath birdeater spider.
On April 6, 2018 the same image was used by Alchetron.com, a free social encyclopedia website, to illustrate a story about goliath birdeater spider which it said could grow to a weight of 175 grams.
The image was reproduced by Our Breathing Planet website which stated the Goliath Birdeater was a species of tarantula that ranks as the largest of all known spiders and the largest known type of arachnid.
The same image was correctly identified and posted at least twice on Facebook before it appeared as a “32cm huntsman” on Ripped Animals’ Facebook page. It was correctly labelled and shared by UBeaut Pest Control in Ipswich Queensland on November 10, 2017 as a #funfactfriday, and again on January 20, 2019 by Eclecticium, a Facebook page initiated by retired biotech scientists/intellectual property specialists to engage the curious with wide-ranging interests in science, culture and the arts.
Based on this evidence AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post claiming to be a giant huntsman spider found outside Darwin to be false.
- False – The Facebook post is false.
First published August 8, 2019 17:35 AEST