Giant tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka

The newly discovered Poecilotheria rajaei tarantula. (Ramil Nanayakkara)
The newly discovered Poecilotheria rajaei tarantula. (Ramil Nanayakkara)

A large species of tarantula, roughly the size of an adult human face, has been discovered in Sri Lanka.

And while the venom of the Poecilotheria rajaei is not lethal to humans, there’s little doubt the abnormal size of the spider could be disturbing, even to those not afflicted with arachnophobia.

The spider’s leg span is a reported 8 inches, with researchers comparing its circumference with the size of a dinner plate. It's covered in a variety of colors, including pink, yellow and gray.

The tarantula was officially discovered by the British Tarantula Society, proving simultaneously that there are still wondrous creatures waiting to be discovered in the wild and at least one official society dedicated to tarantulas.

"It can be quite attractive, unless spiders freak you out," said Peter Kirk, editor of the British Tarantula Society journal, in an interview with the New York Daily News.

“I absolutely would love to see DNA sampling done—on all the species of Poecilotheria,” he said in a separate interview with Wired.

Another observation sure to prove unsettling for those not comfortable with the idea of spiders the size of dinner plates is that they have taken to living inside human dwellings.

Ramil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research, told Wired, "They prefer well-established old trees, but due to deforestation the number have dwindled, and due to lack of suitable habitat they enter old buildings."

The tarantula was technically first uncovered in 2009, when a local villager brought the body of a deceased rajaei to Nanayakkara. But because Sri Lanka is currently undergoing a dangerous civil war, he was forced to recruit a police officer to assist him and his team as they conducted a search of the island nation’s forests for living specimens.