Sheltered by the safety of our homes, we rarely encounter spiders and when we do, they’re usually harmless. Unlike Frodo, fortunately we don’t have to worry about four pairs of hungry eyes watching and waiting for us.
However, tribes living in the forests of Congo don’t have the advantage of being fictional characters and the stories they tell are scary because they’re real. Hidden somewhere in the dark rain forests are the J’ba Fofi, “the great spiders”.
According to locals, these giant arachnids are brown with a purple abdomen and can grow to enormous sizes, having a leg span of over 5 feet. That’s enough to send us all running away terrified.
According to natives, these giants were once common but now they are rarely encountered.
Intrigued by legends of Mokele-mbembe, a dinosaur-like African creature, famous naturalist William J. Gibbons recorded:
On this third expedition to Equatorial Africa, I took the opportunity to inquire if the pygmies knew of such a creature [giant spider], and indeed they did! They speak of the Jba Fofi, which is a “giant” or “great spider.” They described a spider that is generally brown in color with a purple abdomen. They grow to quite an enormous size with a leg span of at least five feet. The giant arachnids weave together a lair made of leaves similar in shape to a traditional pygmy hut, and spin a circular web (said to be very strong) between two trees with a strand stretched across a game trail.”
There is an estimated number of 7.7 million species of animals living on Earth. Approximately 1 million of these have been named and classified. Who knows what remains to be discovered?
Giant invertebrates were once a reality. In the past, when the Earth’s atmosphere had a higher oxygen content, arachnids and insects grew much larger. Perhaps some have managed to survive and science has yet to discover them.