Why Do Tarantulas Have Hair

Tarantulas are one of the most recognizable spiders, known for their large size and hairy appearance. But have you ever wondered why tarantulas have hair? The answer lies in their defense mechanisms. Tarantulas have evolved to use their hair as a form of protection against predators.

When threatened, tarantulas can use their hind legs to kick off specialized hairs called urticating hairs. These hairs are barbed and can cause irritation and discomfort to predators, such as birds or small mammals, that try to attack the tarantula. In some cases, the hairs can even cause allergic reactions or blindness.

Overall, the hair on a tarantula’s body serves as a form of protection against predators. While some tarantulas lack these hairs, most have evolved to use them as a defense mechanism. By kicking off these barbed hairs, tarantulas can deter predators and protect themselves from harm.

So, why do tarantulas have hair? To protect themselves from predators.

What is Tarantula Hair?

Tarantula hair is one of the most distinctive features of these arachnids. The hair, which covers the entire body of the tarantula, serves several important purposes. In this section, we will explore the physical characteristics of tarantula hair and its functions.

Physical Characteristics of Tarantula Hair

Tarantula hair is composed of thousands of tiny, hair-like structures known as setae. These setae are not true hairs, but rather specialized structures made of chitin, a tough, fibrous material that also forms the exoskeleton of the tarantula.

The setae are arranged in different patterns and sizes depending on the species of tarantula. Some species have long, bristly hairs that cover the entire body, while others have shorter, finer hairs that are concentrated in certain areas.

One of the most unique features of tarantula hair is the presence of urticating hairs. These specialized hairs are found on the abdomen of some tarantula species and can be easily dislodged when the spider feels threatened. When these hairs come into contact with the skin or mucous membranes of a predator or other threat, they can cause irritation, itching, and even pain.

Despite their name, tarantula hairs are not actually used for sensing the environment. Instead, tarantulas rely on their other sensory structures, such as their eyes and specialized hairs on their legs, to navigate and detect prey.

The physical characteristics of tarantula hair are just one aspect of these fascinating creatures. In the next section, we will explore the functions of tarantula hair and why it is so important to the survival of these arachnids.

Purpose of Tarantula Hair


Tarantula hair serves as a protective layer for the spider’s body. These hairs are barbed and can cause irritation or an allergic reaction to predators or other threats. When a tarantula feels threatened, it will use its hind legs to kick the hairs off its abdomen, creating a cloud of irritating hairs that can deter predators. Some tarantula species also have urticating hairs that can cause a painful rash or even temporary blindness in predators.

Sensory Perception

Tarantula hairs also play a crucial role in the spider’s sensory perception. These hairs are connected to nerve endings and allow the tarantula to sense vibrations, changes in air pressure, and even smell. Tarantulas use their hairs to detect prey, predators, and potential mates.


Tarantula hair can also help regulate the spider’s body temperature. These hairs can trap warm air close to the spider’s body, providing insulation on cold nights. On hot days, tarantulas can use their hairs to dissipate excess heat by fluffing them up and increasing air flow around their bodies. In conclusion, tarantula hair serves multiple functions, including protection, sensory perception, and thermoregulation. These hairs are a crucial part of the spider’s anatomy and play a vital role in its survival.

Types of Tarantula Hair

Urticating Hairs

Tarantulas have different types of hair, and one of them is the urticating hair. These hairs are found on the abdomen of the tarantula and are used as a defense mechanism. When threatened, the tarantula rubs its hind legs against its abdomen, releasing the urticating hairs into the air. These hairs can cause irritation, itching, and even blindness if they come into contact with the eyes or respiratory system of a predator or human. There are different types of urticating hairs, and they vary in size, shape, and toxicity. Some tarantulas have Type I urticating hairs, which are small and cause mild irritation. Others have Type II urticating hairs, which are longer and more toxic, causing severe itching and inflammation.

Non-Urticating Hairs

Aside from urticating hairs, tarantulas also have non-urticating hairs that cover their body. These hairs serve different purposes, such as sensing vibrations, regulating body temperature, and providing protection. The non-urticating hairs on the legs and body of the tarantula are long and bristly, giving them a furry appearance. These hairs are also used to trap air and insulate the tarantula’s body, allowing it to survive in different environments. In conclusion, tarantulas have different types of hair, each with its own purpose. Urticating hairs are used as a defense mechanism, while non-urticating hairs serve various functions such as sensing, regulating temperature, and protecting the tarantula’s body. It’s important to handle tarantulas with care and avoid contact with their urticating hairs to prevent any harmful effects.

Can Tarantula Hairs Hurt You?

Tarantulas are known for their hairy appearance, and these hairs serve several functions for the arachnid. However, one common concern among people is whether or not tarantula hairs can hurt them. Tarantulas have two types of hairs – urticating hairs and regular hairs. Urticating hairs are barbed and can cause irritation and allergic reactions if they come into contact with human skin or eyes. These hairs are typically found on the tarantula’s abdomen and are used as a defense mechanism against predators. Handlers of tarantulas are advised to wear eye protection to avoid getting urticating hairs in their eyes, which can cause a condition called ophthalmia nodosa. Symptoms of this condition include redness, irritation, and discomfort in the eyes. Regular tarantula hairs, on the other hand, are not harmful to humans. These hairs are used for sensory purposes and help the tarantula detect vibrations and movements in its environment. While tarantula hairs can be irritating and cause discomfort, they are not typically dangerous to humans. However, it is important to handle tarantulas with care and to avoid touching or disturbing their urticating hairs to prevent any potential allergic reactions or eye irritation.


Tarantulas are fascinating creatures that have evolved a variety of adaptations to survive in their environments. One such adaptation is their hairy bodies and legs. While some species use their hairs as a form of defense, others use them to sense their surroundings or to regulate their body temperature.

Despite their fearsome reputation, tarantulas are generally harmless to humans. While they do possess venom and can bite, their bites are not usually fatal and their venom is not particularly toxic. However, their urticating hairs can cause irritation and allergic reactions in some people, so it is best to avoid handling them.

Overall, the hair on tarantulas serves multiple purposes and is an important part of their biology. As with all creatures, it is important to respect their adaptations and to appreciate the role they play in their ecosystems.

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