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Welcome to my Puerto Rico and El Yunque photo exhibit. Where everyday is an adventure.

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Whip Spider (the Guaba)

A for-real Puerto Rican monster. Officially called a Whip Spider (Chelicerata: Amblypygi) but locally know as a guaba or gvaba. These are located all over the world not just in PR. This particular one is about the size of your hand but allegedly they can get up to a couple feet wide (this would be mostly legs with the body only being only a couple fingers wide). It eats crickets, small lizards, and frogs. They are nocturnal and hang around caves and rock outcroppings. Locally there are known to bite but have no venom. The expert on these is Peter Weygoldt who has a book out on them. He states in the book that they do not bite and are harmless to humans. The Taino Indians were deathly afraid of them.

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here litle guaba, nice little guaba

The guaba has arms that will unfold out in front by several inches and skewer their hapless victim with half-inch long spears. They then pull the frog, lizard, or other large insect in and rip it apart to eat. They do not produce venom or silk for webs.
Whip spiders are confusing to the experts. They are under the order Arachnida but they are not a true spider and thus different experts will put them in different orders. Technically they are under the umbrella of Megoperculata as are whip scorpians (Uropygi) and web or true spiders (Araneae). Sometimes both whip spiders and whip scorpians or under a superorder Pedipalpi.

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You do not have to worry about bumping into one of these monsters when you go hiking--so don't be afraid to go hiking along the jungle paths--I don't think any tourist has ever seen one. They only come out at night and you have to know where to look. Look for guabas on rocky outcroppings like this adjacent to caves and rocky crevices. This one is a small one: perhaps 8-10 in. in diameter. Allegedly, they can get up to 25 inches in diameter though I have never seen them that big. The largest I have seen is around 12 inches in diameter. The body is flat. They have pincer-bearing front arms.

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A guaba can move faster than the eye can keep with the movement. Meaning faster than the eye can see. One second they are there and the next they are gone. If you see one arcing up like this, they are getting ready to jump. This means they feel threatened and you need to leave. This one attacked the lens of the camera when I got around 6 inches from it.

Click here to see a spider video. Do you know what type of spider this is?

This is a tree trantula - it moves fast.
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Another tree trantula.
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