Friday, April 3, 2009
Tarantulas are a group of hairy and often very large spiders belonging to the family Theraphosidae, in this group 900 species have been identified. Some Tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees and others hunt on or near the ground. All tarantulas can produce silk; but some species will typically reside in a silken "tube tent", terrestrial species will line their burrows with silk to stabilize the burrow wall and facilitate climbing up and down. Tarantulas mainly eat insects and other arthropods, using ambush as their primary method of prey capture. The biggest tarantulas can kill animals as large as lizards, mice, and birds. Tarantulas are found in tropical and desert regions around the world. Most tarantulas are harmless to humans, and some species are popular in the exotic pet trade. Some species (not known to have ever produced human fatalities) have venom that can produce extreme discomfort over a period of several days. The name tarantula comes from the town of Taranto in Southern Italy and was originally used for an unrelated species of European wolf spider. The name was borrowed to apply to the Theraphosids when Europeans explored areas where these large spiders were common. In Africa, Theraphosids are frequently referred to as "baboon spiders". Asian forms are known as "earth tigers" or "bird eating spiders". Australians refer to their species as "barking spiders", "whistling spiders", or "bird spiders". People in other parts of the world also apply the general name "mygales" to Theraphosid spiders.