Tarantulas: The Gentle Giants You Never Saw Coming

Tarantulas The Gentle Giants You Never Saw Coming

Have you ever come across a heart that pumps blue blood and sported eight legs instead of hands? Nope, me neither! But the enthralling tarantulas, with their majestic aura and stunning charm, might just tempt you to reconsider. These creatures weave a striking tapestry of evolution, ecology and even, if you believe it, cuteness. So, buckle up folks, as we’re about to dive into the awe-inspiring realm of the tarantula.

KingdomPhylumClassOrder FamilyScientific Name
AnimaliaArthropodaArachnidaAraneaeTheraphosidae Theraphosidae
Taxonomic Classification of Tarantulas (Theraphosidae)

Origin and Evolution

Evolutionary History

Speaking of the tarantula evolution, they trace their roots back to the Carboniferous Period, sharing a grand arachnid with scorpions and harvestmen. Attercopus – their earliest ancestors – sported chelicerae (those amazing fangs!) but lacked spinnerets, recommending a focus on predation over web-building.

The breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea, about 200 million years back, played a crucial role in tarantula’s diversification. Detached landmasses spurred the evolution of different species, constructing the remarkable plethora we see today. The Cretaceous Period experienced the rise of giants like Hysterocrates gigas, having leg spans exceeding 30cm.

Genetic Composition and Diversity

With around 1,100 tarantula species, it boasts a remarkable genetic tapestry. Research propose their genomes are strikingly compact, yet packed with adaptations for hunting, burrowing and silk production.

Environmental Adaptations

In conjunction with the tarantula adaptations, they’ve vanquished diverse ecological niches. Each species enjoys adaptations tailored to their exclusive challenges. Burrowing types, such as the Chilean rose hair, is endowed with robust limbs for digging and study mouthparts for cracking tough prey.

Arboreal tarantula, such as the emerald tree boa, sports adhesive pads on its feet, effective for navigating leafy canopies. Some others, like the Brazilian wandering spider, have taken to a nomadic lifestyle, resting on potent venom to conquer unwary prey.

Distribution and Population

Geographic Range

With respect to the tarantula distribution, they blanket much of the Americas, their fortress being Mexico and Central and South America; but their reach stretches far beyond. Australia have a vibrant tapestry of these species, with over 900 species calling it home.

Africa throws its hat into the ring as well, with populations in Madagascar and southern regions. In addition, Asia gets in on the action, with the tarantula dancing across Sri Lanka and India. For those who fence Europe would not play host to these wonders, think again! Spain, Portugal and Italy have their own resident tarantula-tribes.

Population Dynamics

Measuring the tarantula’s population scuttling around is no easy feat; however, to give you a sense of scale, consider this: Brazil alone boasts over 300 recognized tarantula’s species, constituting around 30% of the global diversity. In the US, approximately 15 species call the deserts and grasslands home, with the Mexican red knee and Arizona blonde being popular choices for spider lovers.


Continent(s) Found in tropical and subtropical regions, excluding Australia and Antarctica
CountriesWidely distributed across various countries within their range
Bio-geographical Realms Neotropical, Afrotropical, Oriental, Nearctic (southernmost parts)
Biome Diverse habitats, including rainforests, grasslands, savannas, deserts, and semi-arid regions
Climate ZonesPrimarily tropical and subtropical climates

Tarantula Types

New World Tarantulas

  • Curly-haired tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum)
  • Mexican red knee (Aphonopelma seemanni)
  • Chilean rose hair tarantula (Grammostola rosea)
  • Brazilian salmon pink birdeater (Tliltocatl albopilosus)
  • Pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia)

Old World Tarantulas

  • Brazilian wandering spider (Lasiodora parahybana)
  • Sri Lankan ornamental tarantula (Poecilotheria regalis)
  • Cobalt blue tarantula (Cyclosternus fasciatus)
  • Black baboon tarantula (Harpactira atra)
  • Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi)


tarantula habitat - Tarantulas

In terms of the tarantula habitat, the species weave their silken lives into a diverse array of habitats, each a canvas splashed with unparalleled ecological challenges and opportunities.

Habitat Preferences

  • Deserts: The arid landscapes, like Arizona, Namibia and sands of Australia, are home to resilient the tarantula like the Chilean rose hair and the Mexican redknee.
  • Rainforests: The vibrant kingdom of lush canopies, dappled sunlight and rainforests welcomes arboreal tarantula like the emerald tree boa (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens) and the sling-tailed spider (Avicularia avicularia).
  • Grasslands: Stretched plains, swaying grasses and burrowing tarantula species like Oklahoma brown tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi) make a dynamic duo.
  • Caves: In the cool darkness of caves, dwell troglobitic tarantula like the Texas cave spider (Spelunker francina).

Habitat Utilization Patterns

Some tarantula species, such as the desert-dwelling Mexican redknee, venture out to hunt chiefly in the course of cooler months, retreating to their burrows as temperatures rise. Others, like the rainforest emerald tree boa, may manage their web location within the canopy.

Daily Activity Patterns

Most of the tarantulas are nocturnal, appearing from their hideouts under the cloak of darkness to hunt. Yes, exceptions exist, such as the Australian banded hunting spider (Neosparassus maculatus), which actively chases prey during the day.

5 Striking Tarantula Facts

  • The tarantula burrows primarily underground, under logs or logs and sometimes in trees.
  • They inhabit every continent except Antarctica, but they’re most abundant in South America.
  • As of today, more than 166 genera of the tarantula has been recognized.
  • They may eat every few days or as little as once a month.
  • The largest tarantula has a leg span of up to 12 inches.



Speaking of tarantula appearance, they’re a kaleidoscope of fur and fangs, each species featuring a unique combination of size, shape, color and more.

Physical Characteristics


Concerning tarantula size, from Gooty sapphire (Haploclastus phlogius), barely exceeding a fingernail, to the Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), with a leg span exceeding 30cm, most species fall within the 5 to 12cm leg span range. The smallest tarantula – the Gooty sapphire – measures a sole 1.1cm in body length; while the largest tarantula, the Goliath birdeater, can measure up to 175 grams in weight.


With respect to the tarantula shape, their bodies are typically divided into two chief segments: the cephalothorax (head-chest), housing the chelicerae (fangs), eight legs and eight eyes and the abdomen, holding the organs and spinnerets for silk production.


The tarantula color palette is a vibrant explosion. Earthy browns, fiery oranges, emerald greens, electric blues and metallic shimmers embellish these wonders. Stripes, chevrons, spots and complex patterns add further flair to their visual tapestry.


Tarantula eyes can be divided into two sections: the two main eyes – centrally located eyes – known as the median ocelli, pinpoint light intensity and movement and six secondary eyes, arranged around the main pair offer confined vision.


The tarantula legs are always eight, arranged in four pairs: two at the front, two pairs for walking and running and a final pair with sophisticated functions like grooming and holding prey.


The tarantula fangs are primarily used for subduing prey, allowing them to inject venom into prey. Tarantula venom potencies vary across different species, some strong enough to immobilize small animals.


Tarantula paws are covered in dense hairs called setae, acting like tiny brushes and aiding in traction and offering additional sensory input.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male tarantulas are oftentimes smaller and slimmer than females, with longer legs and brighter colors. The tarantula pedipalps (modified mouthparts) also vary, playing a role in mating rituals.


Color(s) Black, brown, tan, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, metallic hues, and diverse patterns
ClawsTwo tarsal claws per leg, around 0.5-1 mm in length, composed of chitin
MouthSmall opening (1-2 mm) with two chelicerae (fangs) up to 10 mm long in large species
Jaw Chelicerae exert a force of up to 150 times their body weight
Legs Eight legs with 7 segments each, covered in thousands of sensory hairs (setae) 
Skeleton Exoskeleton composed of chitin layers, accounting for 5-10% of body weight

Both the tarantula and the redback spider share the characteristic of being venomous arachnids, each possessing a unique set of toxins.

Reproduction and Life Cycles


Mating System

In contrast to humans, the tarantula doesn’t settle down having one partner; their world embraces a plethora of mating systems, including polygamy, polyandry and monogamy.

Reproductive Biology

Tarantula breeding season differs among species, oftentimes influenced by environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Tarantula eggs can be laid up to 3,000 in silken sacs they fiercely guard.

Gestation Period

Tarantula gestation period, depending on the species, can last anywhere from 6 to 9 month. Over the span of this period, the tiny embryos develop within the silken sac.

Life Cycle Stages

In conjunction with the tarantula lifespan, it varies greatly, with males living shorter lives than females. Some desert-dwelling species live for over 30 years. These tiny bundles of fur encounter a precarious world.

Their first few mots are pivotal, as they grow swiftly and develop their hunting skills. As they molt and grow, their bodies take on the attributes of their adult form, little by little developing legs, fangs and hair patterns. Reaching maturity brings with it the capability to reproduce and continue the cycle of tarantula life.

Mating Habits

Mating BehaviorRisky dance involving drumming, pheromone signals
Reproduction SeasonVaries by species, typically in late summer or early fall
Litter SizeRanges from 50 to 1000 eggs, depending on species
Gestation Period6-12 weeks, depending on species
Independent AgeAfter several molts, typically within 1-2 years
Baby NameSlings or spiderlings

Diet and Lifestyle

diet - Tarantulas

Feeding Ecology

In terms of the tarantula diet, they’re the consummate carnivores; they fall into two main categories:

As primary consumers, these creatures feed on living prey, such as spiders, insects and small vertebrates, for instance, the Mexican redknee readily snaps up roaches and crickets, while the Brazilian wandering spider uses its potent venom to overcome lizards and frogs.

As secondary consumers, some, like the opportunistic Australian banded hunting spider, scavenge for carrion or prey on other invertebrates already injured.

Foraging Strategies

For these eight-legged creatures, finding and capturing food is an intricate dance. Tarantula hunting strategies are as diverse as their prey, including ambush, stalking and active hunting.

Social Structure

Dissimilar to popular belief, not all tarantulas are solitary loners. Their social structure is an astonishingly diverse array, including territorial and communal. The communal species like the Mexican redknee can house up to 100 individuals in a single burrow.

Tarantula Migration

The phenomenon of tarantula migration, exclusively observed in the southwestern United States, presents a thrilling spectacle attributed by precise statistical patterns. In regions, like the deserts of Arizona and Colorado, the migration, primarily undertaken by mature males, reveals with striking numerical significance.

Annual observations unfold the fact that thousands of Aphonopelma hentzi, generally renowned as the Oklahoma brown tarantula, take part in this migration. Males, driven by reproductive instincts, traverse inspiring distances, with documented migrations spanning up to 1.5 miles.

Tarantula Bite

Albeit the tarantula may make you fearsome in equal measure, their bites are far less dramatic than popular culture oftentimes presents. The tarantula is typically not aggressive towards humans and prioritizes to flee rather than fight. Studies suggest an average bite rate of around 0.7 to 1.2 bites per 100,000 people per year in areas with high tarantula populations.

In contrast with the popular belief, most tarantula venom poses minimal threat to humans. Their venom is predominantly adapted for subduing insects and other small prey and its toxicity to humans is normally mild. For more insights about tarantulas, their care and handling, visit the British Tarantula Society (BTS).

Threats and Conservation

Conservation Status

The tarantula conservation status varies widely across species, a mosaic of vulnerability:

  • Endangered: Several species, like Bahian whiteknee tarantula, are facing habitat loss and illegal collection.
  • Vulnerable: Others, like the Panamanian orangeknee, exist in populations teetering on the edge of downturn, crushed by habitat fragmentation and the insatiable demand for the exotic per trade.
  • Threatened: Many species hold the label of vulnerability, for instance, the Mexican redknee, though popular in captivity, faces habitat confluence of threats.

Primary Threats

Though the threats vary based on the species, the most prevalent include: habitat loss, hunting, pollution, environmental degradation and climate change.

Relationship with Humans

 as a pet

Tarantula as a Pet

Keeping tarantula as a pet provides a fascinating alternative to traditional furry friends. But before you welcome one these wonders into your home, it’s essential to comprehend their specific needs and potential challenges.

Ownership Guidelines

In most of the United States, Canada, Germany, France and Spain, keeping tarantula pet is legal. Notwithstanding, certain species are illegal to own in Australia, exclusively those native to the country. In addition, tarantula ownership of specific genera, like Brachypelma and Aphonopelma is forbidden in Japan. In Hawaii, owning these species is illegal due to concerns about the introduction of non-native species.

Choosing the Right Tarantula

  • Tarantula Temperament: Select docile species known for calm behavior, such as the Brachypelma albopilosum (Curly-haired tarantula or the Aphonopelma seemanni (Mexican red knee).
  • Tarantula Lifespan: You’re to ponder over the tarantula lifespan – lasting over 20 years – and be prepared for a long-term commitment.
  • Tarantula Size: Opt for a species sized around for your hosing capacity. Adult female Grammostola rosea (Chilean rose hair tarantula), for instance, can reach a leg span of over 10 inches!

Tarantula Care

After choosing your hairy spider, offering proper care is paramount. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Enclosure: Construct a secure and appropriately sized enclosure where you tarantula pet is going to inhabit; so ensure it provides hiding spots, adequate substrate and climbing structures.
  • Temperature: Using thermometers and hygrometers, maintain the specific temperature and humidity range to monitor the levels accurately.
  • Feeding: Concerning the tarantula feeding, they’re obligate predators, so their diet comprises of live insects like crickets, roaches and worms.
  • Cleaning: Maintain hygiene by eliminating waste and uneaten prey every day; avoid over-handling the enclosure as this can be stressful.

Tarantula Bite

While tarantula bites is comparatively rare with proper handling. The intensity of a tarantula bite differs built upon the species. Bites from most New World tarantulas, like these commonly kept as pets, are oftentimes compared to a bee sting and generally cause localized pain, redness and swelling. Old World tarantulas, nonetheless, can have venom that can cause more serious symptoms, including muscle cramps, respiratory distress and nausea.

Tarantula Poison

Tarantula venom can range in potency based on the species; while the venom of most commonly owned New World tarantula species is not specifically dangerous to humans. Seeking medical attention is crucial if you’re bitten, particularly if you’ve any allergies or experience severe symptoms.

Cultural Significance and Symbolism

The Native American tribes, like the Hopi, linked the tarantula with creation myths. Others, like the Navajo, considered them as powerful spirits, connecting them to healing and protection.

In some African cultures, the tarantula emerges as tricksters, playing cunning roles in folktales. In addition, in Amazonian folklore, these creatures personify powerful shamans, their hairs portraying the transformative abilities of the rain-forest.

Media and Entertainment

The majestic creatures have made their conspicuous presence in several genres; let’s spotlight some of them:

  • Art: “The Metamorphosis of a Spider” by Maria Sibylla Merian (1679), “Surrealist Objects” by Salvador Dalí (1938) and “Arachnophilia” by Louise Bourgeois (2018).
  • Documentaries: “My Giant Pet Spider” by Channel 4 (2008), “Tarantulas: Desert Warriors” by National Geographic (2014) and “Spider: Masters of the Web” by BBC Earth (2022).
  • Movies: “Kingdom of the Spiders” by Jeff Burr (1978), “Eight Legged Freaks” by Ellory Elkayem (2002) and “Tangled” by Disney (2010).
  • Literature: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” by Rudolf Erich Raspe (1842), “Song of the Spiderwoman” by Alice Munro (1995) and “The Girl with All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey (2017).

Economic Importance

In Cambodia, deep-fried tarantula is a popular street food, with the potential of fetch up to $4. As approximated 6 million tarantula species are consumed annually in Cambodia alone.

Additionally, in Venezuela, the Capuchin monkey spider is conventionally eaten by the Pemón people, roasted over an open fire and seasoned with spices. In Southeast Asia, a plethora of tarantula species are consumed in grilled, dried and boiled form.

Unique Characteristics

Forge a path through an intriguing journey as we unfold fascinating facts about dachshunds – truly captivating animals that start with D. Join us in shedding light on their remarkable rundown!

Common NameTarantula
Other Name(s)Bird spider, hairy spider
Number of Species Over 1,100
Lifespan Females: 10-30 years, Males: 2-7 years
Weight 5-100 grams
Length 5-30 cm (leg span)
Predator Birds, snakes, lizards, mammals
Prey Insects, other spiders, small mammals, birds
Most Distinctive FeatureHairy bodies and large fangs


In general, the tarantula is not seen as friendly in the conventional sense. They are lone animals that have the ability to defend themselves and bite if they feel threatened.

For the insects and tiny animals they prey on, the tarantula is all dangerous. The idea that the tarantula is lethal to people is untrue. Even the infamously ill-tempered Cobalt Blue Tarantula does not typically pose a threat to humans, despite the fact that they can behave violently and bite or engage with humans.

Tarantula toxicity is a rare incidence. There’re over 900 tarantula species and they are popular as pets.

Tarantula pet ownership can be an interesting hobby. They are comparatively small in size, easy to maintain, and entertaining to watch.

If you are bitten by a tarantula, the bite site may hurt like you would from a bee sting. The bite site could get red and heated.

Tarantula constructs burrows. Instead of entangling their prey in their webs, they hunt by jumping on them. They don’t construct webs.

Although they can bite, urticating hairs cause the great majority of damage caused by the tarantula.

No, tarantula does not growl. The tarantula is not vocal creatures.

Mudassar Ahmad

He is a seasoned blogger since 2012 and an M.Phil graduate in English Linguistics. He captivates readers with his eloquent prose and insightful perspectives. His passion for language and dedication to crafting compelling content make him a trusted voice in the online sphere. Explore the world through Ahmad's literary lens.

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