Creature Feature: Tarantula

Meet the tarantula: a large, often hairy arachnid and the eight-legged star of this week’s creature feature!

Published October 24, 2014

National Aquarium – Tarantula

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.

National Aquarium – Tarantula

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.

tweet this

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!

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Humpback whale Help Preserve the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act has supported work that has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it has protected. That work is now under threat.

Read the full story

Atlantic puffin chick born at the National Aquarium Meet Our Trio of Puffin Chicks!

We are excited to welcome three new Atlantic puffin chicks to our Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Read the full story

Related Stories

Species Spotlight: Tarantula

Published November 30, 2017

Top Five Tarantula Facts

Published June 09, 2017