Creature Feature: Tarantula
Published October 24, 2014
Meet the tarantula: a large, often hairy arachnid and the eight-legged star of this week’s creature feature!
It’s October, a month dedicated to all things spooky—the cold is creeping in and Halloween is just around the corner. And we’re celebrating all month long by highlighting some of the weird and wonderful creatures you can find right here at the National Aquarium.
There are hundreds of tarantula species found throughout the world in temperate, desert and tropical climates. Most burrow in the ground, though some have also been known to climb trees.
Tarantulas are nocturnal, hunting insects and other (sometimes larger) prey at night. Unlike many spiders that utilize a web, tarantulas capture prey with their legs and use their fangs to inject the prey with venom. Then, they liquefy their meal in order to suck it up through a straw-like appendage.
In addition to their sophisticated predation strategy, these animals have some fairly notable mechanisms of defense! Did you know? Some New World tarantulas have ‘urticating’ hairs on their abdomens. They use these irritating bristles as a defense mechanism, flinging them when threatened.
FUN FACT: A tarantula doesn’t just shed an exoskeleton when it molts—it can replace internal organs & appendages too!
Despite their frightening reputation, tarantulas are virtually harmless to humans (aside from a painful bite). In fact, a bee’s venom is more powerful than this arachnid’s…which may explain why their primary natural predator is a parasitic wasp.
Stay tuned for more spook-tacular creature features!