In Photos: Tarantulas Strut Their Stuff

Zebra Tarantula

A zebra tarantula in the wild.


A study published in 2006 had suggested the zebra tarantula (Aphonopelma seemanni) could shoot silk threads from its feet, ala Spider Man. But repeats of that experiment, along with new studies, suggest that's not the case. In fact, even spigots on the tarantula's feet do secrete silk, some scientists think the material is used fors chemosensory functions.

Uphill Climb

Fernando Pérez-Miles, of the University of the Republic in Uruguay, and his team tested out tarantulas' superhero abilities on vertical glass slides. The team shook the slides to see if the hairy spiders would extrude silk from their feet to stop themselv

(Image credit: Pérez-Miles/Journal of Experimental Biology)

Fernando Pérez-Miles, of the University of the Republic in Uruguay, and his team tested out tarantulas' superhero abilities on vertical glass slides. The team shook the slides to see if the hairy spiders would extrude silk from their feet to stop themselves from falling; they found when the silk-shooting abdominal spinnerets were sealed the spiders didn't leave any silk threads behind, suggesting that the spiders can only secrete silk from their spinnerets and not their feet.

Spindly Spigots

Spindly ribbed structures found on the feet of tarantulas (called foot spigots) looked nothing like the spigots that shoot out spider silk, scientists have found. That suggests the foot spigots are used as some sort of sensory hairs.

(Image credit: Foelix/Journal of Experimental Biology)

Spindly ribbed structures found on the feet of tarantulas (called foot spigots) looked nothing like the spigots that shoot out spider silk, scientists have found. That suggests the foot spigots are used as some sort of sensory hairs.

Structure Comparison

Spindly ribbed structures found on the feet of tarantulas (called foot spigots) looked nothing like the spigots that shoot out spider silk, scientists have found. That suggests the foot spigots are used as some sort of sensory hairs.

(Image credit: Foelix/Journal of Experimental Biology)

Spindly ribbed structures found on the feet of tarantulas (called foot spigots) looked nothing like the spigots that shoot out spider silk, scientists have found. That suggests the foot spigots are used as some sort of sensory hairs.

Sealed Spinnerets

When researchers sealed the tarantula's silk-spinning abdominal organs (the spinnerets) with paraffin, they didn't see any silk residues left on the glass where the spiders were placed.

(Image credit: Pérez-Miles/Journal of Experimental Biology)

When researchers sealed the tarantula's silk-spinning abdominal organs (the spinnerets) with paraffin, they didn't see any silk residues left on the glass where the spiders were placed.

How Spiders Taste

Typical chemosensory hair that "tastes" for spiders.

(Image credit: Foelix)

Typical chemosensory hair that "tastes" for spiders.