Tarantulas are spiders. But they differ from other spiders in many ways – they’re larger than most spider species, have more hair, prefer warmer weather, their fangs are pointed down, and create silk-like trip webs to get alerted and catch other animals.
There is perhaps no other spider species that is as famed as the tarantula. Farmers from centuries past viewed this animal as the devil, because they believed its bite could kill a human.
However, it today turns out that tarantulas are not harmful to humans. Researchers believe that farmers mistook the tarantula for the black widow. The tarantula is one of the most popular and owned pets in the world, thanks to its unique appearance and relative benign nature to humans.
7 Differences Between a Tarantula and Other Spiders
What is it that makes tarantulas so unique and different from other spiders? Let’s find out.
1. Tarantulas are Larger than Most Spiders
One of the first and easily notable differences is the size.
Tarantulas are up to 4.75 inches long, while their legs might span up to 11 inches. Compared to the size of domestic spiders (up to 0.79 inches), the difference in size is quite big.
In fact, some tarantula species like the Goliath birdeater spider will be up to 5.1 inches large. This makes the Goliath birdeater the largest spider species in the world, and it belongs to the family of tarantulas.
Tarantulas are capable of eating larger insects and even smaller birds thanks to their size. With their larger bodies, they’re able to control their prey much easier than smaller spiders, making them more efficient at hunting. However, tarantulas don’t use webs as most other spiders do (we’ll dive deeper into this later on).
2. They Have Larger Hairs on their Legs
While most spiders have hairs on their legs, tarantulas have some of the largest hairs among all spider species in the world.
They have urticating hairs all over their bodies, which is an important defense mechanism against predators and other larger animals. These hairs are meant to irritate and harm the predator, forcing the predator to turn away and leave the tarantula alone.
But these hairs are effective when on the offensive, too.
Tarantula uses its hairs to detect movement around it, which is not unique to the tarantula at all. But these hairs are slightly sharper and also larger than with most spider species, making them an effective solution for attacking other animals as well.
The hairy appearance of the tarantula inspires many people to be scared of the tarantula. With its large body and hairy legs and stomachs, the tarantula has become a fable among common people in the past and still creeps out people today.
However, these hairs are meant primarily for protection, so they’re nothing to be scared of.
3. Tarantulas Prefer Warm Weather
Tarantulas like living in warmer climates, while most other spiders survive and even thrive in colder climates.
You’ll find the tarantulas spread all over the world, but mainly in warmer climates like the Mediterranean, subtropical climates, and tropical climates of Africa and South America.
Tarantulas won’t do well in colder climates, though, unlike most other spider species. They don’t have the anti-freeze bodies inside them, which allows other spiders to survive temperatures as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius).
The ideal temperature range for the tarantula, though, is between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degrees Celsius).
Even though they have hairy bodies, they won’t be able to survive the cold. Originally, the tarantula spider was found in South America, but people from the town of Taranto used the name tarantella for other spiders like black widows.
This term was then used for calling other spiders like the Theraphosidae (what we know today as tarantula).
Related: Are Tarantulas Mammals?
4. Tarantulas Don’t Use Webs to Hunt
The hunting style of the tarantula is different from the hunting styles of most other spiders. Tarantulas don’t use webs, but they use silk tripwires to get signals when the animal comes close, allowing it to pounce.
Most other spiders will use webs to catch their prey. However, webs are not effective against the larger animals that tarantulas go after. They prefer to eat smaller birds, frogs, mice, and larger insects, and webs would be highly ineffective.
Instead, tarantulas wait inside their burrows for the tripwires to be triggered. When that happens, the tarantula will take its opportunity and pounce, catching the animal and applying a lethal dose of venom.
After paralyzing the victim with its venom, the tarantula will use its special enzymes to liquify the target and consume it easier.
5. Their Fangs Face Downwards
The fangs of a tarantula are turned downwards, while the fangs of most other spider species have fangs facing each other, so they can perform pincer-like movements.
Tarantulas use their fangs to pin down their target, while true spiders will use their fangs like pincers to squeeze the victims. It’s a minor difference but a notable one, especially if you take a closer look and compare tarantulas to true spiders.
6. Tarantulas Have Venom, but not as Potent as of Some True Spiders
Tarantulas have venom in their bodies which is used to kill or paralyze their victims, but their venom is not as potent as the venom of some other spiders.
Most notably, black widows are far more harmful than tarantulas. Their venom can potentially paralyze or even kill a human being if not given the antidote.
Related: A List of Wasps that Eat Spiders
7. Other Differences
We’ve covered the main differences, but there are still some other differences to note:
- Tarantulas have two lungs while other spiders have only one
- They will live longer than other spiders, especially if cared for as a pet (up to 30 years)
- Tarantulas have better eyesight than most spiders
- Sexual cannibalism is common among tarantulas
MORE TARANTULA GUIDES:
- Can Tarantulas Hear?
- Can Tarantulas Climb Walls?
- Old World vs New World Tarantulas (Which is a Better Pet?)
Tarantulas are still spiders, though they’re largely different from most other spider species. They’re larger and have more hairs, and hunt their prey differently.
Despite a larger and scarier appearance, tarantulas remain one of the most popular spider species to own.