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Where The Name Tarantula Came From

The European Wolf Spider
(Lycosa Tarantula)
(Click on  picture to enlarge)

The name tarantula comes from a real spider that is found in southern Italy, it lives mainly in an area around the town of Taranto. In fact the real tarantula (The European Wolf Spider, Lycosa Tarantula) is distantly related to the other spiders that share its name.

The real tarantula is a small slightly hairy spider (about 2 inches (5cm's) across). It is not dangerous to humans!

The people of the southern Italian town of Taranto, believed that if they were bitten by they spider that they called tarantula, if the bite was not treated quickly, that they would die.

The only way to survive it's bite, they believed, was to do a dance called the Tarantella. This involved very fast spinning and jumping until they could dance no more and fell to the ground exhausted. This the locals believed was the only cure.

Interestingly, it appears that the spider that was probably responsible for illnesses and the occasional deaths was in fact a member of the Latrodectus (Black Widow) family of spiders. This is a small spider in comparison with the wolf spider that was getting the blame.

The real Tarantula of course is, like the other spiders wrongly named after it, are not really dangerous to most humans. You may feel a little sick if you have been bitten by a tarantula, but normally that is all.

Nowadays, all large hairy spiders have been given the name tarantula, even though many are only very distantly related to the real tarantula. Tarantulas are often called bird eating spiders, very few actually eat birds, those that do usually raid nests and take the young chicks, most however, like our native spiders only eat insects.

Other Pages About Tarantula Nomenclature:

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