107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

Science Spot


Tarantulas are spiders that belong to the family Theraphosidae.  Some are as small as your fingernail; others are as large as a dinner plate.  There is even a species of tarantula that is large enough to prey on small birds.  The largest tarantula is the Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa blondi).  It can have a leg-span of up to a foot.  See the video to the left for a scary look at this tarantula on the hunt.






They look big and scary, but most tarantulas do not have a dangerous bite.  Some can cause severe discomfort, but no tarantula has venom strong enough to kill a human.  There is a chance of infection form any bite, however, or death due to an allergic reaction to the bite.  New World tarantulas have another defense.  Their abdomen is covered with urticating hairs.  Urticating means stinging.  They can flick these hairs at a predator.  These hairs irritate sensitive skin on the body, especially in the nose of any animal sniffing around the spider!

More Tarantula Facts

  • The body and legs are hairy
  • Tan to reddish brown to black in color

  • Body size is to three inches long and two to three inches tall
  • Leg span of three to five inches

  • Male tarantulas are longer and slimmer than females
  • Male tarantulas have much smaller abdomens than females

  • Exoskeleton (outer shell,) includes a fused head and thorax connected at a narrow waist to an oval-shaped abdomen
  • Eight marginally functional eyes in two groups on the forehead

  • Mouth and two backward-pointing fangs below the eyes
  • Two pedipalps (leg-like appendages) for food handling near the mouth

  • The abdomen contains several vital organs
  • The abdomen has silk-producing spinnerets at the tip

  • Four pairs of legs connect to the fused head and thorax


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