Piotr Naskrecki Goliath Birdeater
A Harvard University researcher has an encounter with the world's largest spider in a South American rain forest. Shutterstock/appstock

In a surprising series of events, which is what millions of people's nightmares are made of, a Harvard researcher encountered a puppy-sized spider in a South American rainforest. According to Discovery News, Piotr Naskrecki was strolling through a rainforest in Guyana when he felt something near his foot. Assuming it's a rodent of some kind, he turned on his flashlight to find something else.

"When I turned on the light, I couldn't quite understand what I was seeing," said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, who would eventually learn that the creature was a spider.

The spider in question is the Theraphosa blondi, also known as the South American Goliath birdeater. It's mortifying to imagine a spider large enough to be puppy-sized, but that's exactly how much the spider can weigh.

Here are four fast facts about the Goliath Birdeater:

1. According to the Guinness World Records, the male specimen of the South American Goliath Birdeater is the world's largest spider. The largest specimen ever collected was found by members of the Pablo San Martin Expedition at Rio Cavro, Venezuela in April 1965 boasting a 11 inch (28 centimeter) leg span.

2. Naskrecki wrote on his blog that the spider can weight more than 6 ounces (170 grams) and can have a leg span up to a foot (30 centimeters). For a frame of reference, the spider can grow to be the size of a large fist with a leg span of a child's forearm.

3. The natural habitat of the Goliath Birdeater is the coastal rainforests of Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana. That said, specimens have been found in Venezuela and Brazil.

4. Don't be fooled by the name — while the species has "birdeater" in its nomenclature, it does not feast on birds. But it can kill small mammals and will attack anything that threatens it!

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