Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo (public domain)
The famous Desert Tarantula is one of Hollywood's favorite creatures and has been featured in scary movies, old westerns, and television.
Desert Tarantulas are a common sight in the Southwestern states and Mexico. They generally hide during the day, choosing instead to rest under rocks or in protective burrows that are abandoned by desert rodents.
As with most arachnids, the male of the species is smaller than the female, though Desert Tarantulas in general are noted for their large size compared to other spiders. Leg spans can reach up to 4 inches in diameter on the females, making it possible for them to cover the whole hand of a grown man. Their brown bodies are covered in an abundance of hairs. This bristly hair is the hallmark of identifying Tarantulas, in general. Males are generally completely dark, whereas females tend to have light brown (blonde) hairs on their carapace ('shoulders') and legs.
This spider will work hard at avoiding contact with people, and it will strike if disturbed or threatened. It should be noted that Desert Tarantula bites are considered poisonous, but not deadly. Seeking medical assistance is advisable if bitten. In general, Desert Tarantula venom is reported to only be as dangerous as bee venom, but a deadly allergic reaction may result in sensitive individuals. Every body is different, so medical care is advised in the event of a bite.
Because of their large size, Desert Tarantulas are able to take down and consume small reptiles in addition to insects. Spiderlings hatch from eggs laid by the female, and young male spiders eventually develop the large hairy pedipalps (sometimes mistaken for short legs) at the front of the face. Females enjoy great longevity and have been known to have life spans of up to 20 years.
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Other Name(s): Desert Blonde Tarantula
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 70mm (1.95in to 2.73in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Legs: Spiders have four pairs of legs and these are attached to the cephalothorax.
Pedipalps: Small appendages near the mouth used as taste and smell organs.
Cephalothorax: Contains eyes, head, mouthparts, and legs.
Abdomen: Contains various organs related to digestion, reproduction, and web-making.
Spinnerets: Used in the production of spider silk for fashioning webs or catching prey.
NOTE: Unlike insects, spiders have both an endoskeleton (internal) and exoskeleton (external).