Q: What’s Huge, Hairy, Has Fangs and an Attitude?
A: The Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula!
Some cool facts about this creepy creature:
- A tarantula’s venom, including that of the
Goliath, is usually not lethal to humans, although
the Goliath’s bite with its one-inch-long fangs
can cause severe pain, nausea, and profuse sweating.
- Another serious weapon in a tarantula’s arsenal
is its ability to release hairs (actually hairlike setae) from its body at any
creature—including a human—it perceives
as a threat. The tiny, almost invisible hairs that
it voluntarily releases into the air are extremely
irritating to skin, and can cause real problems if
they get into delicate mucous membranes around eyes
- The Goliath bird-eating tarantula makes noise—not
with vocal cords like dogs, cats, birds, or humans—but
by rubbing bristles on its legs together! This hissing
noise called stridulation is loud enough to be heard
up to 15 feet away.
- Tarantulas can be fearsome predators. Unlike some
other spiders, they don’t weave intricate webs
or leap great distances. Instead, they use stealth
and strength to sneak up and pounce on unsuspecting
victims, inflicting fatal bites with venomous fangs.
- Tarantulas don't have teeth for tearing and chewing
their meals. They inject juices into their
victims. These juices break down soft tissue
so that the spider can slurp up its meal.
- Tarantulas eat insects, frogs, small snakes, lizards,
and even rodents and bats. The Goliath bird-eating
tarantula has been known to catch young birds. This is very rare but the behavior gave the spider its name.
- Some people in South America eat tarantulas—roasted!
Although fuzzy, tarantulas are not exactly warm, and because of their hair-flinging weaponry, huge fangs, and venom, many people fear them. Others, however, find them good pets.
A Future at Risk
Tarantula populations are under pressure from habitat destruction, whether in tropical rainforests or deserts. Many suffer the effects of pesticides used to kill insect pests on which they prey.