This fishing spider (Dolomedes okefinokensis) might appear to have bitten off more than it can chew. But it eventually devoured its meal: a tree frog nearly as large as itself.
An adult of this species of fishing spider can grow to about 13 centimeters (5 inches) wide—about the diameter of a grapefruit. These spiders are found in many parts of the United States. This one was spotted in Florida.
Rather than weaving a web and waiting for prey to stumble into the trap, the fishing spider does what its name suggests: fishes. It sits with its back legs holding tight to a rock while dangling its front legs in a pond or lake. The spider waits to feel a ripple, which indicates that a potential snack is swimming nearby. Then it strikes, using its front legs to grab hold of its prey.
Once the spider snags its victim, it quickly uses its fangs to inject venom—a toxic substance secreted by an animal—which paralyzes and kills its prey. Then the spider injects digestive juices to break down its organs. The prey is turned into a sack of goo the spider can slurp up.
These creepy crawlers aren’t picky about their food either. “Fishing spiders eat nearly anything that moves,” says Igor Oliveira, an ecologist at Federal University in Brazil. “They can catch fish, tadpoles, or even prey up to five times their size, like frogs and lizards.”