Members of the 1000 species strong huntsman spider family frequently reach tarantula-like proportions. They can be alarming fast too, moving in a unnerving crab-like fashion. They generally inhabit tropical areas with undisturbed woody places, which includes garden sheds and woodpiles! Luckily the most you'll get from one of these is a nasty nip. Huntsmans don't usually build webs, but can produce silk. The snail shell spider of Madagascar puts silk-making to extraordinary use, hauling empty snail shells up into a bush for refuge. This was filmed, probably for the first time, for David Attenborough's Madagascar series and can be seen below.
Scientific name: Sparassidae
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Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) are a family of spiders known as huntsman spiders because of their speed and mode of hunting. They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance. Larger species sometimes are referred to as wood spiders, because of their preference for woody places (forest, mine shafts, woodpiles, wooden shacks). In southern Africa the genus Palystes are known as rain spiders or lizard-eating spiders. Commonly they are confused with baboon spiders from the Mygalomorphae infraorder, which are not closely related.
More than a thousand Sparassidae species occur in most warm temperate to tropical regions of the world, including much of Australasia, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Americas.
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