Is the Brazilian Wandering Spider a Tarantula?

The world of spiders is fascinating, with over 48,000 known species and countless more still undiscovered. Two of the most well-known spider species are the Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria) and tarantulas. Both of these arachnids have captured the curiosity and intrigue of many people due to their unique features and behaviors.

Tarantulas belong to the family Theraphosidae, which includes around 1,000 described species found in various habitats worldwide. These large-bodied spiders are renowned for their size, often measuring several inches in leg span. With hairy bodies and impressive fangs used for subduing prey, tarantulas possess a fearsome appearance that has contributed to numerous myths surrounding them.

The Brazilian wandering spider, scientifically known as Phoneutria spp., is not a tarantula but rather belongs to another family called Ctenidae. It comprises several highly venomous species that can be found primarily in South America’s tropical rainforests. These spiders are known for their wandering behavior at night as they search for food or potential mates.

Physical Characteristics

In terms of physical appearance, there are noticeable differences between the Brazilian wandering spider and tarantulas. While both share eight legs like all spiders do, tarantulas usually have stocky bodies covered in dense hairs compared to thinner bodies with less hair on wanderers’ bodies.

Venom Potency

An important distinction between these two types lies in venom potency. The bite from a Brazilian wandering spider can be extremely dangerous due to its neurotoxic properties that affect nerve cell functioning. In contrast, tarantula venom is generally milder and not considered life-threatening for humans, causing only localized pain and swelling in most cases.

Behavioral Differences

Behaviorally, Brazilian wandering spiders earned their name due to their roaming nature. They are known to actively seek out prey instead of waiting in webs like many other spider species, including tarantulas that typically construct elaborate silk burrows or tunnels as their homes.

In summary, although sharing some similarities with tarantulas such as belonging to the same class Arachnida and order Araneae, the Brazilian wandering spider is not a member of the tarantula family Theraphosidae. These two arachnid groups differ significantly in physical characteristics, venom potency, and behavior. Understanding these distinctions can help dispel common misconceptions surrounding these fascinating creatures while appreciating the diversity within the world of spiders.