The name tarantula is generally applied to any large, hairy spider, especially to the furry, bird eating spiders of South America.

Defences

Despite their reputation as dangerous creatures, tarantulas are only ferocious when provoked. They have various ways of protecting themselves from their enemies. Some use an intimidating display by leaning back on their haunches, raising their head and legs and exposing their long curved fangs. This often frightens the enemy away! Other species turn their back on their attacker and squirt a nasty liquid into the predator's face. The spider may use its legs to scrape a stinging shower of very fine hairs from the top of its abdomen. Each hair is covered with tiny points and if they touch eyes or skin they can be painful and dangerous, even causing temporary blindness.

The defence tactics are used against such enemies as racoons, coatis and skunks which try to dig tarantulas out of their burrows, or birds, lizards or frogs which pick them up when out in the open.

Most tarantulas are quite placid and will only attack a human if goaded.

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