Tarantula Tarantulas are mostly large, hairy spiders, although some species are as small as fingernails. They feed mostly on insects, but larger species can kill lizards or rodents. Some types hunt prey mainly in trees while others are ground-dwellers, capturing their prey by ambushing them. They also have barbed hairs on their abdomens, called urticating hairs, which they flick at their attackers to cause itching.
Bird-eating spider, South America, legspan up to 30 cm (1 foot) A tarantula has four pairs of legs, each leg having seven segments and claws at the tip. Its fifth pair of "limbs", called pedipalps, help the tarantula to feel its way around, to grip prey, and are used by the male to deliver sperm to the female during mating.
The first spider to be called a tarantula was a species of wolf spider from southern Europe. It was named after the southern Italian town of Taranto. The term "tarantula" was later applied to almost any large, hairy, ground-dwelling spider.
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