Horror in the jungle: Megaloremmius leo

It will surely frighten you when you discover it for the first time: Megaloremmius leo, one of the few large spiders in Madagascar. Eight long legs, a thick, clumsy body, bright red hair on a black ground. Although it looks like a tarantula, it is not even related to them. Megaloremmius leo belongs to a family of spiders that are known as huntsman.

To reassure all travellers who are more at war with spiders, it should be said beforehand that they are very, very seldom seen. Actually, very little is known about this monster, which is as big as the palm of your hand. It lives in the rain forests of the east coast and the highlands and can be found in Masoala, Marojejy, Andasibe-Mantadia, Anjozorobe-Angavo and Ranomfana.

Megaloremmius leo
The black variant of the species, picture: Stefan Leber

Megaloremmius leo lives mainly on trees and is nocturnal. It does not build a web like other spiders, but lurks on the undersides of leaves sitting on passing insects, which it then takes by surprise and eats directly. During the day it rests under leaves or hides under tree bark. Whoever encounters it at night should be prepared for resistance. Megaloremmius leo is not only very agile, but also reacts relatively aggressively to threats. Usually, however, their gigantic biting tools (the so-called chelicerae) are already sufficient to deter the attacker. Although Megaloremmius leo is not a tarantula, she also shows a defense tactic, which you actually know from them. If someone gets too close to the spider, it lifts up its backside (called ophistosoma in spiders) and sprays the attacker with excrement. The surprise effect of the attack is then used to flee.

The male of the red tree spider is officially not described at all. However, after some travellers have already found black spiders with male sex characteristics extremely similar to the red Megaloremmius leo, it can be assumed that the black variant is probably the male of the species. What the egg bags of Megaloremmius leo look like is also not yet known, and spiderlings have not yet been photographed. The large, hairy spider is therefore not only an endemic of Madagascar, but also largely mysterious and unknown.

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