Researchers in Brazil were in for a terrifying surprise when they discovered a tarantula devouring a snake under a rock.
Despite being just a fraction of the snake’s size, the tarantula had the serpent twisted into a knot while it fed on it.
While other species of spider are known to prey on snakes, this is the first time that a tarantula has been caught in the act in the wild.
Scientists at the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil found the spider eating the snake in Serra do Caverá in southern Brazil.
The Grammostola tarantula was eating the body of an Almaden ground snake which was 40 centimetres (15 inches) long.
Speaking to Live Science, Leandro Malta Borges, one of the researchers who found the spider, said: ‘Predation of such a large snake in relation to the size of the spider was extremely surprising to us.’
Grammostola tarantulas have previously been induced to eat snakes in captivity.
But this is the first time the shocking scene has been captured in the wild.
Mr Borges added: ‘There are other records of spiders preying on snakes, such as the famous black widow, which has a strong toxin and, besides, rely on the web for capturing.
But unlike black widows, tarantulas do not spin webs.
The researchers say that most likely, the snake had slithered by the tarantula’s rock or tried to use it as a den.
Using its fangs, which can be up to two centimetres (0.8 inches) long, the tarantula probably attacked the snake, subduing the reptile.
Once the snake was dead, the spider then began to eat it.
Spiders digest their food by liquefying the insides of the animal’s body, before drinking the juices.
When the researchers discovered the spider, it had already turned the snake’s front and middle sections into liquid.