Manage to lure one out of her nest for a quick shoot! Taken in Fraser's Hill, Malaysia
Tarantulas (as the term is used in North America) comprise a group of often hairy and very large arachnids belonging to the family Theraphosidae, of which approximately 900 species have been identified. Although some members of the same suborder may also be called "tarantulas" in the common parlance, this article only describes members of Theraphosidae.
Some genera of tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees; others hunt on or near the ground. All tarantulas can produce silk—while arboreal species will typically reside in a silken "tube tent", terrestrial species will line their burrows with silk to stabilize the burrow wall and facilitate climbing up and down. Tarantulas mainly eat insects and other arthropods, using ambush as their primary method of prey capture. The biggest tarantulas can kill animals as large as lizards, mice, birds and small snakes. They can be found in the south and western parts of the United States, Central America, and throughout South America. Tarantulas can also be found throughout Africa, large parts of Asia and all over Australia. In Europe, there are some species in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and in Cyprus. Most tarantulas are harmless to humans, and some species are popular in the exotic pet trade. All tarantulas are venomous, but only some species have venom that, while not known to have ever produced human fatalities, can produce extreme discomfort over a period of several days.
Like all arthropods, the tarantula is an invertebrate that relies on an exoskeleton for muscular support. A tarantula’s body consists of two main parts, the prosoma (cephalothorax) and the opisthosoma (abdomen). The prosoma and opisthosoma are connected by the pedicle, or what is often called the pregenital somite. This waist-like connecting piece is actually part of the prosoma and allows the opisthosoma to move in a wide range of motion relative to the prosoma.
The sizes range from as small as a fingernail to as big as a dinner plate. Depending on the species, the body length of tarantulas ranges from 2.5 to 10 centimetres (1 to 4 in), with 8–30-centimetre (3–12 in) leg spans. Leg span is determined by measuring from the tip of the back leg to the tip of the front leg on the opposite side. The largest species of tarantula can weigh over 85 grams (3 oz). The largest of all, the goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) from Venezuela and Brazil, has been reported to have a weight of 150 grams (5.3 oz) and a leg-span of up to 30 centimetres (12 in), males being the longer and females greater in girth.
T. apophysis (the pinkfoot goliath) was described 187 years after the goliath birdeater; therefore its characteristics are not as well attested.T. blondi is generally thought to be the heaviest tarantula, and T. apophysis to have the greatest leg span. Two other species, Lasiodora parahybana (the Brazilian salmon birdeater) and L. klugi, rival the size of the two goliath spiders.
The majority of North American tarantulas are brown. Elsewhere have been found species colored cobalt blue (Haplopelma lividum), black with white stripes (Aphonopelma seemanni), yellow leg markings (Eupalaestrus campestratus), metallic blue legs with vibrant orange abdomen and greenbottle blue (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens). Their natural habitats include savanna, grasslands such as the pampas, rainforests, deserts, scrubland, mountains, and cloud forests. They are generally classed among the terrestrial types. They are burrowers that live in the ground.
Tarantulas are becoming increasingly popular as pets and are readily available in captivity.