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Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Desert Tarantula

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The famous Desert Tarantula is one of Hollywood's favorite creatures and has been featured in scary movies, old westerns, and television.

Updated: 04/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Desert-Tarantula

small animals; small reptiles; insects
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Hairy insect icon
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Araneae
        Family: Theraphosidae
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          Genus: Aphonopelma
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            Species: chalcodes

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Other Name(s): Desert Blonde Tarantula; Arizona Blonde Tarantula
Category: Spider
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 70mm (1.96" to 2.75")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray; brown; black; beige; tan
Descriptors: heavy; hairy; knees; biting; venomous; biting

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 50mm (2.0in) and 70mm (2.8in)
Lo: 50mm
Md: 60mm
Hi: 70mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Desert Tarantula may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Desert Tarantula. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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