Arachnida

Antilles pink-toed tarantula

Antilles pink-toed tarantula, Avicularia versicolor

In the last thirty years, collecting exotic spiders has become an increasingly popular pursuit. This species, from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique is a favorite among collectors and breeders because of its bright colors and docile behavior. A tree-dwelling species, it may attain a length of six inches. Captive specimens do well on crickets and mealworms. Their venom is comparable to that of a wasp. Like other tarantulas, their hairs can cause severe skin irritation, if they are mistreated.

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Goliath bird-eating spider

Goliath bird-eating spider, Theraphosa blondi

Until 2001, when the Giant huntsman spider was discovered in Laos, this enormous tarantula of the Northern South American rainforests was known as the largest spider in the world, and is still the heaviest. The legs may span one foot and they can weigh up to six ounces. While it is certainly capable of eating small birds, their more usual prey is insects, frogs, and lizards. Their venom is comparable to that of a wasp, but they are also capable of damaging human skin with their detachable irritating hairs. Females can live to be 25 years old and males only to six.