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Differences between spiders and tarantulas

Spiders vs. Tarantulas: Unraveling the Enigmatic Arachnids


Spiders and tarantulas, often lumped together as mere creepy crawlers, are fascinating creatures that belong to the same class but have distinct characteristics that set them apart. By understanding their differences, we can gain a deeper appreciation for these enigmatic arachnids. In this blog post, we will delve into the contrasting features of spiders and tarantulas, exploring their taxonomy, physical characteristics, habitat, behavior, venom, and popular species.

Taxonomy and Classification

When it comes to taxonomy, both spiders and tarantulas fall under the order Araneae. However, they diverge at the suborder level. Spiders belong to the suborder Opisthothelae, while tarantulas belong to the suborder Mygalomorphae. This differentiation is the first step in understanding the dissimilarities between these arachnids.

Physical Characteristics

Spiders generally come in smaller to medium sizes. They possess two main body parts: the cephalothorax (head and thorax fused together) and the abdomen. Most spiders have eight eyes and spinnerets that enable them to produce silk for various purposes. On the other hand, tarantulas tend to be larger in size. Their bodies consist of two main parts: the prosoma (similar to the cephalothorax) and the opisthosoma (comparable to the abdomen). Tarantulas typically possess two main pairs of eyes and spinnerets for silk production.

Habitat and Distribution

Spiders are incredibly adaptable and can be found in diverse environments worldwide. They occupy a range of ecosystems, including deserts, forests, and urban areas. Tarantulas, however, are predominantly found in tropical and subtropical regions. They thrive in terrestrial habitats such as rainforests, deserts, and grasslands.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Spider behavior varies across species, but most are solitary creatures. They utilize webs to capture prey or employ hunting strategies to secure their meals. Spiders exhibit a wide range of behaviors, including elaborate courtship rituals and maternal care. On the other hand, tarantulas display both solitary and communal behavior. Some species are solitary, while others can be found living together in colonies. Tarantulas are primarily ambush predators, lying in wait for their prey, but they can also actively hunt. Additionally, tarantulas have defensive behaviors such as flicking urticating hairs, or engaging in threat displays to deter potential threats.

Venom and Bite

Venom is a notable aspect of both spiders and tarantulas. Certain spiders, belonging to various families, possess venom that they use to immobilize or kill their prey. Spider bites can range in severity depending on the species. Tarantulas also possess venom, but they are generally not considered medically significant to humans. Their venom is primarily used to subdue prey rather than for self-defense. While tarantula bites can be painful, they rarely cause serious harm to humans.

Popular Species and Examples

Now let’s delve into some examples of well-known spiders and tarantulas. In the spider realm, we have the orb-weaver spider (Araneidae family) known for its intricate circular webs, the agile and charismatic jumping spider (Salticidae family), and the infamous black widow (Theridiidae family) with its distinctive red hourglass marking. Among the notable tarantulas, the Mexican red-knee tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) stands out with its striking coloration and docile nature. The Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), the largest spider by mass, captivates with its sheer size and fearsome reputation. Lastly, the pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia) enchants enthusiasts with its vibrant colors and arboreal lifestyle.


Spiders and tarantulas, though belonging to the same order, exhibit distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding the differences between these fascinating arachnids allows us to appreciate their diversity and complexity. While spiders tend to be smaller, with a solitary lifestyle and diverse web-building techniques, tarantulas capture our attention with their larger size, communal behavior in some cases, and intriguing defensive mechanisms. Venom plays a crucial role in their survival, with spiders utilizing it to immobilize prey and tarantulas relying on it for subduing their meals. By highlighting popular species such as orb-weavers, jumping spiders, black widows, Mexican red-knees, Goliath birdeaters, and pinktoe tarantulas, we gain a glimpse into the stunning variety within these arachnid groups.

So, the next time you encounter a spider or a tarantula, take a moment to appreciate their unique qualities and the crucial roles they play in ecosystems. These incredible creatures continue to captivate researchers, nature enthusiasts, and arachnid lovers worldwide. By unraveling the distinctions between spiders and tarantulas, we unravel the mysteries of the arachnid world and foster a deeper understanding of the natural world that surrounds us.

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Hey! My name is Michael Cannode and I'm the owner and developer of Arachnifiles. The arachnid card-style tracking app!