There exists 800 documented tarantula species in the world today, and the state of Arizona is home to 30 of these species. Arizona is well known for its tarantula population, and for good reason, as some tarantulas in the state are large enough to prey upon and consume mammals. These mammals include several different rodent species as well as lizards. According to one study, the western desert tarantula of Arizona regularly preys upon kangaroo rats. In fact, the study described one instance in Tucson that saw a western desert tarantula specimen carrying a fully grown rat on its back. This specimen was likely carrying the dead rat to its burrow in order to gorge itself on the rodent.
The body-size of the desert tarantula grows to be around three inches in length, and this measurement, of course, is not counting the tarantula’s long hairy legs. Males of this species live for around 10 to 12 years, but the much larger female lives for a period of around 25 years. The female produces between 200 and 300 offspring at a time, and luckily, their venomous bites are not considered medically significant to humans. This tarantula’s most common rodent prey, the desert-dwelling kangaroo rat, is not the tiny creature you may assume it to be considering the desert tarantula’s ability to consume the animal. This rat species grows to be around 4 to 5 inches in length, not counting its tail, and it lives a solitary existence within the blazing hot Sonoran Desert. The kangaroo rat has evolved to avoid tarantula predation by jumping as far as ten feet, and they are able to change their direction immediately upon landing.
Researchers have documented the existence of mammal-feeding tarantula species in seven countries located on six continents. Some mammal hunting spiders spin ultra-strong webs in order to capture rodents, and they all produce strong venom designed to incapacitate the vertebrae nervous system.
Have you ever witnessed an encounter of any kind between a tarantula and a rodent or lizard?