Facts about Tarantula

Did you know that the world's largest spiders are the Tarantulas? Yes, they are and the largest species is found in the rainforests of South America. Read on to know more.
Tarantulas, a group of spiders, belong to the family Theraphosidae of the phylum arthropoda. The name 'tarantula' was originated in the city of Toronto, Italy in the 14th century. They are more hairy and larger than the usual spider species. The hair of Tarantula are sensitive to smell, touch and temperature. There are about 900 species of Tarantulas, identified from all over the world. Some of these species have dense, thick hair in the abdomen that can cause skin irritation in humans. They are mostly found in the forests, mountain foothills and desert basins. Here are some interesting facts about Tarantula.

Tarantula Facts and Information

In the United States, Tarantulas with reddish-brown to black color are found. However, vibrant color Tarantulas are identified from different parts of the world. For example, the Mexican Red Knee Tarantula has a black color abdomen and legs with orange and black bands; the Greenbottle Blue Tarantula has an orange color abdomen and metallic blue legs.

Tarantulas have two body parts viz. the prosoma (cephalothorax) and the opisthososma (abdomen) that are connected via the pregenital somite (pedicle). Like other arthropods, the hard exoskeleton of Tarantulas plays a major role in supporting the body, as there are is internal skeleton. There are eight legs, each of which possesses two tiny claws.

The body length and leg span of Tarantulas vary, depending upon the species. The body length range from 1 to 4 inches; whereas, the leg span may range from 3 to 12 inches. The biggest known tarantula species till date is the Theraphosa blondi, that weighs about 120 gms and having a leg span of about 12 inches. In general, male Tarantulas have a longer body length than the females, whereas female Tarantulas have a comparatively wider body.

The habitat of Tarantulas include underground burrows, grounds and tree trunks. They are nocturnal, carnivores and feed on insects and other arthropods like grasshoppers, spiders, locusts and beetles. They ambush their prey and can even kill small lizards and mice. The predators of Tarantula are owls, hawks and snakes.

Tarantulas possess silk-producing spinnerets in the abdomen and have the ability to produce silk. Many species surround their nests with silk mats, that vibrates and acts as an indicator when a prey touches the silk strands. There are also some Tarantula species that have tiny spinnerets in their feet, which help them to hold and climb on slippery surfaces like glass panes.

During the mating season (spring and fall), the male Tarantula performs specific dance patterns to attract the willing female. After mating, the female produces an egg sac that consists of about 2000 spiderlings. The tiny spiderlings, then hatch after a period of 6-7 weeks. The young ones remain with the mother for a few weeks, after which they leave the burrow and start living on their own. A young Tarantula molts several times to develop into an adult.

One interesting characteristic of the Tarantulas is that the males are short-lived, they live at the most for 7-8 years. Whereas, the female Tarantulas have a longer life span, they can survive as long as 35 years. At maturity, males do not undergo molting; whereas female tarantulas molt once in a year.

Due to the declining population of Tarantulas, they are classified as less threatened in the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Though, people are scared due to the large and hairy appearance of Tarantulas, these large spiders are mostly non-aggressive and seldom bites. As their venom is non-poisonous, Tarantulas are not categorized under the deadliest insects. Many hobbyists love to keep Tarantulas as their home pets. In certain parts of the world, tarantula dishes are consumed as a favorite recipe.
By Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: 9/23/2011
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