Bug Blog

An Interesting Event Witnessed By Researchers In Sabino Canyon Shows Why Tarantulas Cannot Be Easily Eaten By Other Desert Animals

Believe it or not, but tarantulas are considered good eating in many countries, such as Laos, Mexico and Venezuela. However, before humans stuff their faces with enormous tarantulas, they almost always cook the arachnids first. This is certainly a wise idea, as not only do tarantulas produce venom, but more importantly, many species possess urticating hairs that are extremely irritating and dangerous to humans. These hairs are located on the underside of the body, and when threatened, a tarantula will detach these hairs before literally chucking them into a human’s face, causing extreme irritation, allergic reactions, swelling and even temporary blindness. In some cases, barbed urticating hairs can become lodged in a person’s cornea. These symptoms can last for hours or weeks, depending on the species. Many pet tarantula owners have fallen victim to this defense method, and this is a particularly common occurrence when pet tarantulas are mishandled. Obviously, urticating hairs are used most often against predators of tarantulas, and the efficacy of this defense method goes a long way, as urticating hairs can allow a tarantula to escape from the belly of a predator after being swallowed. For example, a recent study in Tucson described a tarantula escaping from the belly of a toad by making use of its urticating hairs.

The study’s lead researcher, Michael Bogan, was in the Sabino Canyon recreation area when he noticed a Sonoran desert toad sitting on the ground. Upon closer inspection, Bogan noticed numerous stick-like objects protruding from the toad’s face, as well as something wiggling around in the toad’s belly. It then became clear to Bogan that the toad had swallowed a western desert tarantula that was still making an effort to survive despite being in the toad’s insides. Bogan fully expected the tarantula to die as a result of being consumed, but he noticed that the toad’s throat stretched forward, creating an imprint of the tarantula’s fangs. Clearly, the tarantula was trying to eat its way out of the toad. However, according to Bogan, the tarantula did not need to use its venom, as the urticating hairs were causing the toad tremendous pain. This pain eventually forced the toad to expel the tarantula from its mouth. The tarantula was covered in gastrointestinal juices as a result of its journey into the toads guts. It is for this reason that tarantulas do not always make for the best meals. Both the frog and the toad survived the ordeal.

Have you ever witnessed an animal eat a tarantula?