Toads and Tarantulas

Here is an example in the natural world of how enemies can live in peace. It’s the strange story of narrow-mouthed toads and tarantulas.

Toads and tarantulas are natural enemies because large tarantulas eat small frogs, as well as mice, lizards, snakes, and other prey. However, small narrow-mouthed toads (microhylids such as Kaloula taprobanica) ) and some tarantulas (such as Xenesthis immanis) seem to have made a peace treaty. The tarantulas live in burrows in the ground or holes in trees. The toads will move into the tarantula’s home, where it has protection and food. Any animal that would eat the toad will not invade the tarantula’s burrow because the tarantula would attack it. The toad benefits the tarantula by eating ants and other pests that get into the burrow and would eat the tarantula’s eggs.

When researchers placed other species of frogs in the tarantula’s burrow, the tarantula ate them. In the middle of such offerings, when they substituted a narrow-mouthed toad, the tarantula spared it. They also tried covering another type of frog that the tarantula normally eats with the skin of a narrow-mouthed toad. The tarantula grabbed it and examined it before releasing it unharmed. There seems to be an understanding between tarantulas and narrow-mouthed toads that we can’t easily explain.

Maybe we can learn something from toads and tarantulas. If those who set out to kill us would give us a chance, they might find that we can be mutually beneficial to each other. That is how enemies can live in peace. What a different world this would be if everyone would follow the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
© Roland Earnst

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