The closest that many of us get to a tarantula is seeing one in a movie. As a result, it’s tempting to think that all tarantulas are roughly the same. The reality, however, is very different.
With over 500 different species of tarantula, there is a huge diversity within the group. If you’ve ever found yourself shuddering at the thought of that brown, hairy spider in the pet shop then the following species might just cause you to think a little differently.
Yes, the goliath birdeater is a boring brown in color, but there’s something that makes the goliath special. In case you hadn’t guessed from it’s name, this is officially the largest spider in the world.
Hailing from the jungles of South America, adult goliath birdeaters can reach over 30cm across when measured from toe to toe. That’s roughly the size of a dinner plate. Perhaps you wouldn’t want to find one sat in your bathtub in the morning, but even serious arachnophobes have got to admit that’s a pretty impressive tarantula.
If you thought all tarantulas were boring brown or black in color then prepare to have your perceptions changed. The greenbottle blue tarantula hails from Venezuela, and has rapidly become a popular pet around the world.
The reason? This tarantula has incredible metallic blue legs, a green carapace and an orange abdomen. As such, they’re one of the most colourful tarantulas in the world. Even better, at least for exotic pet keepers, they also tend to be quite docile, and can be easily handled if you so desire.
If you thought all tarantulas lived in burrows that they’ve dug then this tarantula might surprise you. Found in the Indian subcontinent, the Indian Ornamental is known as a “tree spider”. That’s right - this tarantula actually climbs about in the trees, hunting for any insects that might be feeding there.
Look closely at one and you’ll notice that they’re far more athletically-built than their ground-dwelling cousins, which helps them to effortlessly run up and down tree trunks. If that weren’t fascinating enough then Indian Ornamentals are also intricately patterned, being covered in silver and black markings.
Just like our friend the goliath birdeater, there’s a reason why the horned baboon is so called. First things first - why is it called a “baboon” spider? The answer to this is simple; tarantulas coming from Africa are known by this unique title. It is believed that the origin of the word comes from the way in which a tarantulas silky legs can resemble the fingers of of local primates.
But what about the “horned” bit? Well this is what makes this tarantula really special - it has a big horn sticking out of its carapace! And to answer your next question, no, nobody has any idea what the horn’s purpose is or how it evolved.
This may be another baboon spider but the king baboon is very different to its cousin. It’s much, much larger and is clothed in what looks like orange velvet. It can also hiss like a snake - a process known as “stridulation” in tarantulas.
Most interestingly of all, however, the king baboon has a unique “pigeon-toed” look, where it’s thick back legs are turned in slightly. It’s believed this peculiar morphology helps the king baboon to rapidly move along its narrow burrow - something that can be a meter long in the wilds of Kenya.
While I know that some people will be feeling a little queasy at this point, I hope that other readers will have learned a thing or two about these fluffy and fascinating creatures. Perhaps you’ve even realized that - shock horror - tarantulas can actually be quite beautiful. If so, then welcome to the club.
There are societies dedicated to the care and study of tarantulas, and exhibitions around the country where you can get close to hundreds of different species. Why not take the next step in what can be a fascinating, if somewhat addictive, hobby?