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Land invertebrates

Tarantulas

TarantulaTarantula Tarantulas are mostly large, hairy spiders, although some species are as small as fingernails. They feed mostly on insects, but larger species can kill lizards or rodents. Some types hunt prey mainly in trees while others are ground-dwellers, capturing their prey by ambushing them. They also have barbed hairs on their abdomens, called urticating hairs, which they flick at their attackers to cause itching.

Legs

Bird-eating spiderBird-eating spider A tarantula has four pairs of legs, each leg having seven segments and claws at the tip. Its fifth pair of "limbs", called pedipalps, help the tarantula to feel its way around, to grip prey, and are used by the male to deliver sperm to the female during mating.

A tarantula's cheliceraeA tarantula's chelicerae

Fangs

Yet another pair of appendages, the chelicerae, are positioned just below the eyes and carry the spider's fangs. They are hollow and contain venom glands. They are used to inject venom into prey or attackers. The fangs can be folded back into the chelicerae, in the same way as a penknife blade folds back into its handle. The tarantula's mouth is a narrow, straw-like opening that can only suck. So anything the spider consumes must be liquidized first of all. Large prey, such as rodents, must first be crushed, ground up and and coated with digestive juices.

The first spider to be called a tarantula was a species of wolf spider from southern Europe. It was named after the southern Italian town of Taranto. The term "tarantula" was later applied to almost any large, hairy, ground-dwelling spider.

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