Giant Tarantula spider (Aphonopelma chalcodes)
Tarantulas (as the term is used in North America) comprise a group of often hairy and often very large arachnids belonging to the family Theraphosidae, of which approximately 900 species have been identified. Some members of the same Suborder may also be called "tarantulas" in the common parlance. This article will restrict itself to describing members of Theraphosidae. They are also called Athropodes.
Some genera of tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees; others hunt on or near the ground. All tarantulas can produce silk—while arboreal 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.They can be found in the south and west parts of the USA, Central America, and down throughout South America to the southern parts of Chile, Argentina. Tarantulas can also be found throughout Africa, large parts of Asia and all over Australia. In Europe, there are some species in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and in Cyprus. Most tarantulas are harmless to humans, and some species are popular in the exotic pet trade. All tarantulas are venomous, but only some species have venom that, while not known to have ever produced human fatalities, can produce extreme discomfort over a period of several days.
Tarantulas give some people the creeps because of their large, hairy bodies and legs. But these spiders are harmless to humans (except for a painful bite), and their mild venom is weaker than a typical bee's. Among arachnid enthusiasts, these spiders have become popular pets.
Tarantulas periodically shed their external skeletons in a process called molting. In the process, they also replace internal organs, such as female genitalia and stomach lining, and even regrow lost appendages.
There are hundreds of tarantula species found in most of the world's tropical, subtropical, and arid regions. They vary in color and behavior according to their specific environments. Generally, however, tarantulas are burrowers that live in the ground.
Tarantulas are slow and deliberate movers, but accomplished nocturnal predators. Insects are their main prey, but they also target bigger game, including frogs, toads, and mice. The South American bird-eating spider, as it name suggests, is even able to prey upon small birds.
A tarantula doesn't use a web to ensnare prey, though it may spin a trip wire to signal an alert when something approaches its burrow. These spiders grab with their appendages, inject paralyzing venom, and dispatch their unfortunate victims with their fangs. They also secrete digestive enzymes to liquefy their victims' bodies so that they can suck them up through their straw-like mouth openings. After a large meal, the tarantula may not need to eat for a month.
Tarantulas have few natural enemies, but parasitic pepsis wasps are a formidable exception. Such a wasp will paralyze a tarantula with its sting and lay its eggs on the spider's body. When the eggs hatch, wasp larvae gorge themselves on the still living tarantula.
The tarantula's own mating ritual begins when the male spins a web and deposits sperm on its surface. He copulates by using his pedipalps (short, leglike appendages located near the mouth) and then scuttles away if he can—females sometimes eat their mates.
Females seal both eggs and sperm in a cocoon and guard it for six to nine weeks, when some 500 to 1,000 tarantulas hatch.
Fast Facts about Tarantula spider
Average life span in the wild: Up to 30 years
Size: 4.75 in (12 cm) long; leg span, up to 11 in (28 cm)
Weight: 1 to 3 oz (28 to 85 g)
Courtesy : http://animals.nationalgeographic.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/
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