A giant, hairy tarantula that was clinging for dear life to a branch with all eight of its legs is now in a much safer — and somewhat drier — spot, thanks to two spider lovers who rescued it from a flooded street in Queensland, Australia.
Many people wouldn't protect a tarantula (most people don't even want to be in the same ZIP code as a poisonous arachnid), but that's not what's weird about this video, said Lorenzo Prendini, curator of arachnida and myriapoda at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
The weird thing is the tarantula's behavior, Prendini said.
This tarantula, thought to be a whistling spider, typically lives in a silk-lined burrow under the ground, Prendini said. But it has rained so much in north Queensland recently — more than 15 inches (40 centimeters) in four days, according to the Aussie news station nine.com.au— that the floodwater likely washed the tarantula out of its burrow, Prendini said. From there, the tarantula apparently scrambled up the tree limb to escape the rising waters.
"This is unusual behavior," Prendini told Live Science in an email. "Ordinarily, these spiders wait for the water to subside by climbing up their waterlogged tunnels." That's because tarantula burrows are usually in dry or well-drained ground, so part of the burrow would be above water level, he said.
These aren't small burrows, either. Some are up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) long and about 3.2 feet (1 m) deep, according to the Queensland Museum, in Australia.
"In this case, there was obviously too much water and the spider risked drowning if it remained in the burrow," Prendini said. "But, by climbing on the vegetation it also risked predation by birds [and other predators]."
In another video, Gofton shows her friend picking up the branch holding the tarantula and carrying it to a patch of grass. "We then placed him in a tree just in view in the video…it's up to nature now," Gofton wrote on Facebook.
Whistling spiders can stridulate (make a kind of hissing sound), hence their name, when they rub parts of their anatomy, such as their jaws, together, Prendini said.
The spider eats anything it can overpower, including insects such as beetles, locusts and crickets. They can be aggressive if mishandled, and their bite can kill cats and dogs. But there is only one report of a human getting seriously sick from the bite of any kind of tarantula, according to the Queensland Museum.