Tarantulas and Their Pet Frogs Offer a Unique Look at Animal Friendship

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, or so the saying goes. In the animal kingdom, unlikely friendship pairings often come about this way. In the Amazonian rainforest, tarantulas and frogs team up for a mutually beneficial relationship. The frogs get protection from the large spider, living in its burrow and even hiding under it. In turn, the frog eats ants and fly larvae that try to eat the spider’s eggs. In a sense, the frog becomes the tarantula’s pet, a relationship that has also been spotted in other species of spiders. Although it’s possible we’re just seeing true animal friendship.

Pictures from a scientific expedition in Peru show humming frogs hanging out with a whole family of tarantulas. The team was actually there to document tarantula prey. They were amazed to witness the relationship between these species. But scientists have known about it for at least a few decades.

Some younger spiders hunt the humming frog but end up not eating it. A skin secretion that tastes bad to the tarantula could be the key to the friendship. The spider tries once and then learns the frogs aren’t prey. If they’re not food and they can help keep the spider’s eggs and young safe, the humming frogs are tolerated as houseguests.

Frog jumping underneath a tarantula, screenshot from YouTube - tarantulas and spiders sometimes keep frogs as pets in a special kind of animal friendship
Texas Wes Adams

People have also observed this relationship with a different species of frog and tarantula in Texas. In some ecosystems, frogs eat spiders. In others, spiders eat frogs. But sometimes there’s just the right balance and they can co-exist.

All animals have adaptations in order to survive. This unlikely pairing may not even be the weirdest thing you learn today. In fact, there are tarantulas who only live in bamboo, beetles that can survive being eaten by a frog, and a parasitic worm that kills spiders.

While it may be no Spider-Man and Frog-Man team-up, these tarantulas and frogs definitely look out for each other. Even if they’re not the cutest animal friend pairing.

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