TARANTULA GENUS SPOTLIGHT: Theraphosa, the Goliath Bird Eaters

Goliath bird-eating tarantulas are the largest spiders by mass in the world (the giant huntsman spider has a larger leg span), belonging to the genus Theraphosa. They can have a body length of 5.1 inches and a leg span of a foot. At the time I started keeping tarantulas in the late 1970s, there was only one species known, Theraphosa blondi (though at the time it was being sold as Theraphosa leblondi). Blondi, described in 1804, was thought to be the only species of goliath until in 1991, the goliath pink foot (Theraphosa apophysis), was described. Then, in 2010, the burgundy goliath (Theraphosa stirmi) was described. Though all three species look similar as adults, the spiderling and juvenile stages show the greatest differences between species.

Theraphosa blondi (Latreille, 1804)

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Old World Versus New World Tarantulas

As of this writing there are 954 known species of tarantulas in the world, with dozens upon dozens of described genus names. As research continues on these fascinating animals, new genus and species names are created and animals are being shifted into new nomenclature. You just never know when what you had yesterday as a Brachypelma smithi could now be Brachypelma hamorii tomorrow. What one day was Avicularia versicolor is now Caribena versicolor. As new species are discovered and more research is done, I am sure these shifts will continue.

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