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Published on March 24th, 2013 | by James Ayre


Angolan Witch Spider, Giant Spider Found In Texas Is A Hoax…

There have been rumors circulating on the Internet of a spider large enough to eat people’s dogs and cats… While it should be obvious that such an animal would not be discovered out of the blue, and the poorly done photoshop job should be a hint, apparently many people have fallen for this. So I figured why not do a debunking and talk about something that I love, spiders.


To start with the photo, there are VERY clear signs that it was photoshopped, and poorly at that. And even if the photoshop had resulted in a masterpiece of deception, the image simply doesn’t make sense; the shape, body type, location, behavior, none of it.

More interesting than any of that though, is that there are real limits to how large spiders can actually get, based primarily on the (relative) ineffectiveness of their “lungs”, among other factors. They simply can’t grow past a certain size in relation to the oxygen content in the atmosphere, or they wouldn’t survive.

Most spiders possess what are called “book lungs“, which are completely unrelated to what we normally call lungs, and developed independently. And from fossil evidence, we can determine that these structures have remained more or less unchanged throughout the past 400 million years because of how effective they are. There are downsides/limits to them though, with relation to lungs as we know them. As body size increases in relation to gas molecule size, they become less effective. This means that as animals with these structures get bigger they become less and less effective at “breathing”, which places limits on their maximum size.

Other limits to their maximum body size include a decreasing effectiveness and durability of their exoskeleton and muscular system, as they get larger they generally need to become thicker to compensate for this (especially highly-mobile spiders), tarantulas are a good example of this.

The two largest spiders alive in the world today are both approaching the limits of maximum spider size, in the current atmosphere anyways, perhaps not in the distant past. They are the foot long Goliath bird-eater tarantula, and the Giant Huntsman in Vietnam. Neither of these come close to approaching the size of the “Angolan Witch Spider”.


The largest known prehistoric spider species is the Nephila jurassica, which was smaller than many modern species. With how rare spider fossils are though, it is very possible that there were much larger species. A couple of years back a giant “spider” fossil was discovered that was the size of a small dog and dated back to 300 million years ago, but after deeper investigation the fossil species has now been labeled as a species of “water scorpion”, not a spider at all.

All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t undiscovered spider species, even strange ones, as new spider species are discovered all the time, such as the species Cerbalus aravensis. But as anyone with an even somewhat discerning eye can see, the Angolan Witch Spider is clearly a hoax… Though to be fair, the unicorn was a real animal

Image Credit: Screen Capture; Goliath Bird-Eater via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • saahlopes

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  • Rachel Shoemaker

    LOL, Angolan witch spider………………that’s funny!

  • madeuce42

    I wonder what some would do in the white house besides turn it into an outhouse

  • Dex

    It’s actually not that bad of a Photoshop job, though.

    Just the Syfy-esque size that gives it away as a hoax.

  • Josh Mitchell

    you forget the camel spider is vary large.

    • tim

      The camel spider is not actually a spider, just an arthropod.

  • Grannelle

    In the distant past, ambient O2 levels have been known to be much higher than today, with some estimates at 30%+, in fact. Given your postulate that size is directly proportional to atmospheric pO2, I would guess that long ago epoch would have been ideal.

  • squeaks

    so i guess the spider just happened to grow on the side of that house overnight because someone seriously would have seen that thing walking outside across the street or something if that were real. FAKE

  • dude love

    dudes i must say there is a spider of this magnitude the only thing is they are living in the amazon the reason they haven’t been found is there is sop much still unexplored and not yet mapped one day maybe there will be proof of these giant spiders but this is clear bullshit there is no way this is real if you believe this then you will belive that sky is actually pink and the snow is green

  • Emily

    All you are doin in this article is basically telling people how dumb they are cuz “its clearly photoshopped”. “A hint would be the image is photoshopped and poorly at that”. How bout instead of belittling the people who thought it was real, why not just state it was a hoax and leave it at that. And by the way people discover new insects, animals and creaters everyday…so your ” why would it be discovered out of the blue” statement was irrelevant and stupid on your part! Ok rant over!

    • JoshLRussell

      The difference is that those creatures are usually small and thus belong to parts of the ecosystem that support millions of species, making them hard to differentiate and identify. Even when a bigger creature is identified, it’s often just something we thought was the same as an existing creature but that has been reclassified as a new species. On land, species as large as this don’t just turn up out of the blue and walk to Texas; it would have happened before, been noticed and documented. Also, spiders shed. I imagine someone would have at least seen it’s giant creepy moult. :s

  • SoNyeoShiDaeForever

    One thing I noticed was that even though it was supposedly from South America it was called the “Angolan” Witch Spider.
    Angola is in Africa, why would a South American species of spider be called after an African country?

  • Brichy

    Someone just blew up a photo of a wolf spider and photoshopped it.

  • Ashura53

    I knew it was fake, however I couldn’t help but to nearly defeciate in my pants when the ad came up out of freakin’no where.

  • bmason

    But will it blend?

  • norman madden

    Does it float like a duck?

    • Brighton Early

      It turned me into a newt!

  • MaximumOvertroll

    that’s a terrible shoop. there’s not enough oxygen in the atmosphere to support a spider that big.

  • Melissa

    Thank you I have a REAL fear of spiders and I saw the first picture on face books that said it could eat dogs and cats and I had a MELT DOWN! I’m sure to all you people that think rationally you knew it was a hoax but friends fear is anything but rational and I appreciated this explanation. Also since you like spiders, anything you would suggest to some one who is trying to get over her fear of spiders?

  • grumpy

    First off as soon as I saw this creepy spider I said it ain’t real, monsters don’t exsit.. As I further investigated the giant angolan witch spider I did think it looked pretty real I mean by the way of it’s stance, and how one leg poked into the plant. And speaking of legs as I went on scrolling to the rest of the story I saw the spider ,ruler,and dollar bill, and looking closly at the creature I said wait a second spiders have eight legs . How many legs does the monster spider have, so I scrollled to the top where the monster spider was glued to the side of the house and saw the monster has only seven legs. So much for that. However it does appear on the top side of the spider ‘s body that a leg has been torn off between the two legs extended upright. Well anyway monster’s don’t exsit right?

    • EllisF

      Only two-legged ones.

  • Tom

    If I EVER stepped outside of my house and found a spider that size on my house, that would be it. Close the cave door and back to pygmy country! I’d be out of here so fast all you would see is a trail of dust.

  • Len Mills

    I do like Nathan’s long winded explanation that this spider is a hoax. What I would like to submit is a picture of a blue whale crawling down Oxford Street, London. Nathan’s explanation will nodoubt be on the lines of: “Well actually, blue whales don’t travel as far as England and they don’t actually climb out of the water and they wouldn’t have the strength in there fins to crawl on land and once more they would suffocate with their body weight etc…” Yes Nathan… we know this… It’s a HOAX!

    • Zachary Shahan

      and how did you end up on this post?…

  • tent

    ppl r just dumb…. get a life

  • Randy Miner

    Another issue besides oxygen content in the atmosphere is that all arthropods have exoskeletons with limbs powered not by muscles like us, but by pumping fluids into the limbs to extend them. That’s why when a spider dies, its legs curl up. The arthropod body plan can only be scaled up so far given earth’s gravity. The coconut crab (google it) is about a large as is believed arthropods can be on land.

    The largest terrestrial arthropod known ever to have lived was the six foot long centipede arthopleura centipede. However, its body consists of segments with short legs which allowed it to be so large, in contrast to the arachnid body plan. In addition, it lived in the Carboniferous period when oxygen content was 35%.

    FYI the spider in the photo looks like a blown up wolf spider to me. Used to see them all the time with a 3 or 4 inch legspan. A spider as big in the photo would not even be able to stick to the wall!!!

  • tone

    I took that pick of my neighbors house

    • Barry Obama

      100x zoom.

  • tone

    Wtf that spider is real.

    • Peanuts AProblem

      u are a liar where is the dead body of the spider cuz im sure it would be in a museum bro bad photo chop job

    • Leatha Gordon

      You can see that the spider has four legs on one side and only three on the other. Also it’s third leg on the bottom is flat like the others, but the leg is in front of the plant below it. Poor photo shopping.

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