I recently posted on Facebook this photo from a weekend walk in Payson, and it evoked quite a range of reactions. This prompts me to share a little more information about this gentle giant of the arachnid world.
From Wikipedia I learned:
Anecdotally, the term “tarantula” originally referred to wolf spiders around Taranto in southern Italy. However, the evocative moniker came to apply to any large spider, and today generally refers to members of the Theraphosidae family, of which the wolf spider is–ironically–not a member.
Most tarantulas are not harmful to humans and will avoid contact. They can bite if provoked, which usually involves rough handling, but the biggest bite risk is infection. Some species have urticating hairs which can be shed by leg flicks or by rubbing the abdomen against an adversary. These hairs or bristles are barbed and can be quite irritating and even damaging, especially if they enter the eye.
Vision is not a strongpoint for tarantulas, which mostly see shades of gray and can detect motion. However, they make up for lack of visual acuity with extreme sensitivity to vibration and chemical signatures.
Tarantulas don’t have “blood,” per se. Their bodies circulate “hemolymph” which contains an oxygen-binding protein that is copper-based, as opposed to humans’ iron-based hemoglobin.
Some species can produce silk from their feet, in addition to the more-familiar spinnerets.
It takes a tarantula two to ten years to reach maturity. Males may live another year or year-and-a-half in the wild after that, but females may live as long as 40 years!