Old World Tarantulas: A Comprehensive Guide

The old world tarantula is a fascinating creature that has captured the curiosity of many enthusiasts and researchers alike. Known for its intimidating appearance, this species of tarantula can be found in various regions across Europe, Asia, and Africa. With its distinctive characteristics and unique adaptations, the old world tarantula stands out as an intriguing subject to explore.

Unlike their new world counterparts, old world tarantulas possess potent venom that they use both for defense and subduing prey. These arachnids are known for their aggressive behavior and exceptional hunting skills. Their large size and robust build make them formidable predators in their natural habitats.

Intriguingly diverse in appearance, the old world tarantulas exhibit a wide range of colors and patterns on their bodies which serve as effective camouflage against potential threats or unsuspecting prey. Furthermore, these spiders have evolved specific mechanisms to adapt to different environments such as deserts or rainforests.

As we delve deeper into the realm of the old world tarantula, we will uncover more about their habits, habitat preferences, mating rituals, and other interesting aspects that contribute to our understanding of these ancient creatures. So let’s embark on this captivating journey through the intricate web spun by the fascinating old world tarantula!

Overview of Old World Tarantulas

Old World tarantulas, also known as Asian and African tarantulas, are a diverse group of spiders belonging to the family Theraphosidae. Unlike their New World counterparts found in the Americas, these tarantulas can be found in various parts of Asia and Africa.

Here are some key points about old world tarantulas:

  1. Habitat: Old World tarantulas inhabit a wide range of ecosystems including tropical rainforests, deserts, grasslands, and mountainous regions.
  2. Appearance: These spiders exhibit remarkable diversity in terms of size and coloration. While some species possess vibrant colors such as blue or green hues on their bodies, others have more cryptic patterns for camouflage.
  3. Size: Old World tarantulas come in various sizes ranging from small species with leg spans around 4 inches to large ones that can reach up to 10 inches or more.
  4. Behavior: Most old world tarantula species are known for being defensive and less docile compared to their New World counterparts. They may display aggressive behaviors when threatened or provoked.
  5. Venom: Many old world tarantula species possess venom that is considered medically significant; however, they generally have smaller venom yield compared to some New World species like the Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria spp.) or the Mexican redknee (Brachypelma smithi).
  6. Feeding Habits: Old World tarantulas are opportunistic predators that mainly feed on insects but may also consume small vertebrates like frogs or lizards if given the chance.
  7. Mating Behavior: Male old world tarantulas often have elaborate courtship rituals before attempting to mate with females. This may involve drumming on surfaces using their pedipalps or performing intricate dances.
  8. Egg Sac Production: Female old world tarantulas lay eggs and protect them by creating silk egg sacs. These sacs are placed in burrows or hidden crevices until the spiderlings hatch.

Old World tarantulas are fascinating creatures with unique adaptations and behaviors. Studying these spiders helps us gain a deeper understanding of their ecological roles and evolutionary history within their respective habitats.

Habitat and Distribution

  • The Old World tarantula is found in various regions across the globe, including Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia.
  • These spiders are well-adapted to different habitats within these regions, ranging from deserts to rainforests.
  • They prefer warm climates but can also survive in cooler environments.
  • Old World tarantulas typically dwell in underground burrows or crevices for protection.

Geographic Distribution:

  1. Asia:
  • India: Found in the Western Ghats region.
  • China: Native species located mainly in southern parts of the country.
  • Southeast Asia: Various countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia are home to several species.
  1. Africa:
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Tarantulas can be found throughout this region with diverse species present.
  • Madagascar: Known for its unique spider fauna including some endemic tarantula species.
  1. Europe:
  • Mediterranean Basin: Some countries such as Spain and Italy have native populations of tarantulas.
  1. Australia:
  • Northern Territory: Home to a few indigenous species of Old World tarantulas.

While each specific location may have variations in climate and habitat conditions that influence their distribution patterns, Old World tarantulas generally thrive where they can find suitable shelter and prey availability. It’s important to note that not all areas within these regions support significant populations of these spiders due to localized environmental factors.

Physical Characteristics

The old world tarantula is known for its unique physical features. Here are some key characteristics:

  1. Size: Old world tarantulas can vary in size, but they are generally larger than their new world counterparts. They can have leg spans of up to 10 inches (25 cm).
  2. Coloration: These tarantulas display a wide range of colors and patterns on their bodies. From earthy browns and blacks to vibrant blues and reds, their coloration often helps them blend into their natural habitats.
  3. Hairy Bodies: One distinct feature of the old world tarantula is its hairy body. These fine hairs, called setae, cover various parts of the spider’s exoskeleton.
  4. Fangs: Like all spiders, old world tarantulas possess venomous fangs used for capturing and subduing prey.
  5. Leg Structure: The legs of an old world tarantula are robust and designed for both movement and defense. Each leg has several segments that provide flexibility during walking or climbing.
  6. Spinnerets: Located at the rear end of the abdomen, spinnerets produce silk used by these spiders for building webs or constructing protective retreats.
  7. Abdomen Shape: Old world tarantulas typically have a stockier body shape compared to new world species with a more rounded abdomen region.
  8. Eyesight: While not as reliant on vision as some other creatures, old world tarantulas do possess multiple pairs of eyes arranged around their head region to detect movement and light changes in their environment.

Old world tarantulas exhibit fascinating physical characteristics that make them intriguing creatures within the arachnid family.

Feeding Habits

The old world tarantula has fascinating feeding habits that contribute to its survival and growth. Here are some key points about their dietary preferences:

  1. Carnivorous Diet: Old world tarantulas are carnivores, primarily preying on insects and other small invertebrates.
  2. Ambush Predators: They adopt an ambush strategy, patiently waiting for prey to come within striking distance before pouncing on it.
  3. Venomous Bite: Once the tarantula captures its prey, it delivers a venomous bite to immobilize or kill it quickly.
  4. Web Usage: While old world tarantulas do not build elaborate webs like their new world counterparts, they may still use silk threads strategically as tripwires or draglines while hunting.
  5. Opportunistic Feeders: These spiders are opportunistic feeders and can consume a variety of food sources depending on availability in their habitat.
  6. Size-Based Consumption: The size of the prey determines whether the spider will consume it entirely or discard parts that cannot be easily consumed due to their large size.
  7. Molting Periods: During molting periods when the spider sheds its exoskeleton, it refrains from feeding as its fangs harden for several days after molting is complete.
Feeding Habits
Carnivorous diet
Ambush predators
Venomous bite
Limited web usage
Opportunistic feeders
Molt-induced fasting

Understanding these unique feeding habits provides insights into how old world tarantulas have adapted over time to thrive in various environments across the globe.

Note: Old world refers to species native to Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The reproduction and life cycle of old world tarantulas are fascinating and unique. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects:

  1. Mating: Old world tarantulas reproduce sexually, with males actively seeking out females for mating. The male performs a courtship ritual to attract the female, which may involve gentle tapping or vibrating movements.
  2. Sperm Transfer: Once the male has successfully courted the female, he will deposit his sperm onto specialized structures called palpal bulbs located on his pedipalps. He then carefully inserts these palps into the female’s genital opening to transfer his sperm.
  3. Egg-laying: After successful mating, the female tarantula produces an egg sac that contains hundreds of eggs. She meticulously guards this sac against potential threats until they hatch.
  4. Incubation Period: The duration of incubation varies among species but typically lasts several weeks to months depending on environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity levels.
  5. Hatching: When it’s time for hatching, spiderlings emerge from their eggs by breaking through the egg sac using specialized appendages called pedicels or chelicerae.
  6. Independent Spiderlings: Once spiderlings have emerged, they are independent from their mother and must fend for themselves in order to survive. They disperse away from each other to avoid competition for resources within their natural habitat.
  7. Growth and Molting: Like all arachnids, old world tarantulas undergo molting throughout their lives as a means of growth and regeneration. During molting, tarantulas shed their exoskeletons to accommodate increased size or repair damaged body parts.

It is important to note that specific details regarding reproduction methods can vary across different species within the old world tarantula family (Theraphosidae). Researchers continue studying these fascinating creatures to gain further insights into their reproduction and life cycle patterns.

Behavioral Traits

The old world tarantula is known for its unique behavioral traits. Here are some key characteristics that define their behavior:

  1. Aggressiveness: Old world tarantulas tend to be more aggressive compared to their new world counterparts. They may display defensive behaviors, such as raising their front legs and exposing their fangs when they feel threatened.
  2. Burrowing: These spiders are skilled burrowers and create intricate underground tunnels or chambers where they spend most of their time. Burrowing provides them with protection from predators and helps maintain a stable environment.
  3. Nocturnal Activity: Old world tarantulas are primarily nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night. Their keen sense of touch, along with specialized hairs on their body, allows them to navigate in darkness efficiently.
  4. Web Usage: While many new world tarantulas build elaborate webs for prey capture, old world species rely more on speed and agility to catch their prey rather than web construction.
  5. Venomous Bite: Old world tarantulas possess potent venom that they use not only for subduing prey but also as a defense mechanism against potential threats or predators.
  6. Cannibalistic Nature: In certain situations, particularly during mating or territorial disputes, old world tarantulas can exhibit cannibalistic behavior by consuming other members of the same species.
  7. Long Lifespan: Compared to other arachnids, old-world tarantulas have relatively long lifespans ranging from 10-30 years depending on the species and environmental conditions.
AggressivenessMore likely to display defensive behaviors when threatened
BurrowingSkilled at creating underground tunnels or chambers
Nocturnal ActivityPrimarily active during the night
Web UsageLess reliant on web construction for prey capture
Venomous BitePossesses potent venom for both hunting and defense
Cannibalistic NatureMay exhibit cannibalistic behavior during mating or territorial disputes
Long LifespanCan live up to 10-30 years depending on the species and environmental conditions

In conclusion, old world tarantulas have fascinating behavioral traits that contribute to their survival in diverse environments. Their aggressiveness, burrowing skills, nocturnal activity, venomous bite, cannibalistic nature in specific situations, and long lifespan make them intriguing creatures worthy of further study.

Venom and Potential Risks

Tarantulas are known for their venomous bites, which they use primarily to immobilize their prey. While most tarantula bites are relatively harmless to humans, there are a few species that can pose potential risks, especially for individuals who may be allergic or have compromised immune systems.

Here is some important information about the venom of old world tarantulas:

  1. Venom Composition: The venom of old world tarantulas contains a mixture of toxic proteins and peptides. These compounds work together to subdue prey and defend against predators.
  2. Severity of Bites: Generally, the bite from an old world tarantula causes local pain, redness, and swelling that subsides within a few hours or days without any serious complications. However, in rare cases, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms such as intense pain, muscle cramps, nausea, or even systemic reactions like difficulty breathing.
  3. Allergic Reactions: Like with any other venomous creature’s bite or sting, some people may exhibit allergic reactions to tarantula venom. These reactions could range from mild itching or hives to severe anaphylaxis requiring immediate medical attention.
  4. Pre-existing Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as heart problems or allergies should exercise additional caution when handling old world tarantulas due to the potential risks associated with their venom.

It is essential to note that fatalities resulting from tarantula bites are exceptionally rare; however, it’s always advisable to seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms after being bitten by an old world tarantula.

Remember these general safety guidelines when dealing with potentially dangerous animals like old world tarantulas:

  • Always handle them cautiously using proper protective equipment.
  • Do not provoke or disturb them unnecessarily.
  • If bitten by a spider suspected to be an old-world species and experience concerning symptoms afterward,
  • Clean the wound with mild soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

By following these guidelines, you can minimize the potential risks associated with encounters with old world tarantulas. Stay informed and stay safe!


In conclusion, the old world tarantula is a fascinating creature with unique characteristics and behaviors. With its impressive size and striking appearance, it captivates the attention of both arachnid enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

One notable feature of the old world tarantula is its venomous bite, which it uses to subdue prey. This venom contains powerful toxins that immobilize insects and small animals, allowing the tarantula to feed on them at its leisure. Despite their intimidating reputation, these spiders rarely pose a threat to humans unless provoked or mishandled.

Additionally, old world tarantulas are known for their intricate burrows and web structures. These underground homes provide protection from predators while also serving as strategic hunting grounds. Their ability to adapt to various habitats has allowed them to thrive in diverse environments across several continents.

Overall, studying the behavior and biology of old world tarantulas offers valuable insights into the complex ecosystems they inhabit. As we continue to explore and appreciate these remarkable creatures, let us remember their essential role in maintaining ecological balance while embracing their awe-inspiring beauty.

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