Goliath Spiders, the Giant Spiders | Features and Other Interesting Facts

Goliath spiders are striking for their large size, strong, hairy legs, and dark colors, considered the largest spider in the world.
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Characterized by their large size, strong, hairy legs, and dark colors, it’s no wonder that Goliath spiders instill terror where they live, but… they are shier than you think, and one of the most sought-after as pets.

They belong to the class “Arachnids,” family “Theraphosids”; it’s common to find them in South America, living in their lair covered by fine silks, and has such fascinating specimens as the “Theraphosa blondi,” the largest spider in the world.

Below you will find everything about this incredible animal. What does it eat, in which countries can it be found, how does it reproduce…? And a lot of curious facts. Don’t miss it!

What is the Goliath Spider?

Also known as the “monkey spider,” it is the name given to a primitive spider of great size with a very hairy and dark body.

Due to a confusion, it has been erroneously called a “tarantula,” because when the Spaniards arrived on the American continent and saw the great size of the Goliath spider, it seemed to them that they were identical to the tarantulas of Taranto, Italy.

This name was assumed to be correct and continues today; so you will also find them under the name of tarantulas, and it is valid.

However, Goliath spiders belong to the family “Theraphosids,” while European tarantulas are part of the “Lycosids”

Taxonomy of the Goliath Spider

  • Kingdom: Metazoa
  • Subkingdom: Eumetazoa
  • Branch: Bilateria
  • Grade: Coelomata
  • Series: Protostomia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Suborder: Mygalomorphae
  • Infraorder: Tuberculotae
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Subfamily: Aviculariinae
  • Genus: Avicularia

Meaning of Goliath Spider

The word “Goliath” comes from “Mygale,” a French word meaning “field mouse,” as, due to their size, they were once compared to this rodent.

Araña migala en su hábitat, que generalmente son las grietas de los troncos de árboles, bajo las hojas, ramas de diversas plantas, o rocas y, en ocasiones, usa las madrigueras abandonadas por otras arañas o roedores.
Giant Spider or Goliath Bird-Eater

What characteristics does the Goliath Bird-Eater spider have?

Características físicas de la araña migala
Physical Characteristics of the Goliath Bird-Eater Spider
  • Like all arachnids, it has an exoskeleton or external skeleton.
  • Its body consists of two clearly separated parts: cephalothorax (or prosoma) covered by the exoskeleton, and the abdomen (opisthosoma), a bulging mass.
  • The cephalothorax (combination of the head and thorax) has all the appendages (8 simple eyes, 8 legs, 4 oral appendages…)
  • The abdomen contains almost all the bodily openings (pulmonary openings, genital openings, anus…)
  • It has 4 pairs of very strong locomotive legs, divided into seven smaller parts (articles) and covered in spines, in addition to two pedipalps and two chelicerae (oral appendages).
  • Its chelicerae move up and down in parallel (like two parallel fists that never cross), and in the male, are equipped with a sharp red spine.
  • Its size varies between 2 and 10 centimeters. Some species exceed 25 centimeters in diameter. Generally, females are much larger than males.
  • The body is covered by tiny dark hairs, displaying different shades of brown and dark stripes or glints on the legs, ranging from pink to chestnut.
  • At the end of the abdomen, it has long movable appendages (spinnerets) responsible for secreting the silk produced by internal glands (sericigenous) used to cover its shelter.
  • It can live between 5 and 7 years. Certain female species have reached 25 years.
  • The nervous system is composed of nerve ganglia.
  • The digestive system is complete (mouth, esophagus, intestine, and anus).
  • It breathes through four “book lungs or filotracheae”, from pores located in the abdomen.
  • The circulatory system is open, formed by a small tubular heart, and veins that branch throughout the body, carrying hemolymph (blood).

If you want to know more about the characteristics, I invite you to read the post about arachnids

Did you know? When they feel threatened, female Goliath Bird-Eater spiders emit a warning hiss (called stridulation) produced by the rubbing of their legs. Click To Tweet
Gif araña migala

Where does the Goliath Bird-Eater live?

It lives in the warm regions of South America and the southern Caribbean, especially the humid jungles of Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, and the island of Trinidad.

It builds its home with thick white webs that it stretches at the entrance of crevices in tree trunks, under leaves, branches of various plants, or rocks and, occasionally, uses burrows abandoned by other spiders or rodents.

It has nocturnal habits, the female of the species remains sheltered in the burrow; the male roams freely. They are generally solitary and only seek company when they need to mate.

What does the Goliath Bird-Eater eat?

They are carnivorous and feed on small mammals, various types of insects (terrestrial and flying), frogs, chicks, and occasionally small birds.

Did you know? The Goliath Bird-Eater spider can fast for several months without being affected! Click To Tweet

How does the Goliath Bird-Eater reproduce?

Its reproduction is sexual; it mainly takes place at the beginning of the rainy season and, like in other spider species, there is a courtship to mate.

The female secretes a substance indicating that they are ready to mate, attracting males, who fight among themselves to win the privilege of being with the female. In the end, she will choose the one she finds most attractive!

Once chosen, the male inserts the spermatophore (a small sac with sperm) into the female’s genital opening, using modified pedipalps (appendages) to fertilize the eggs.

After fertilization, the male runs the risk of being sacrificed; the female retreats to the bottom of the burrow and dedicates herself to protecting her eggs until they hatch (open), about six weeks later, laying between 5 and 200 eggs.

The development of the offspring is direct (without metamorphosis or transformations), going through successive molts until sexually maturing and becoming adults.

Did you know? The Goliath Bird-Eater's instinct to attack and eat anything that moves is so powerful that the male must approach very carefully during mating. Click To Tweet

Is the Goliath Bird-Eater Spider venomous?

Yes, it is a hunting strategy! Most spider venoms have well-defined chemical functions, with their main components being proteins (hydrolases, lipases, hyaluronidases).

While it is true that to neutralize their potential prey (through paralysis and suffocation) is very effective, experts indicate that the venom of most species does not cause major harm to adult humans, but caution should be exercised in bites to children.

If someone is bitten, the skin can become irritated and experience severe pain, also accompanied by intense burning in the area affected by contact with urticating hairs (similar to tiny hairs) that cover its abdomen.

The person bitten feels as if tiny needles were being stuck into them, and may react with nausea, fever, and headache.

Goliath Spiders, the Giant Spiders | Features and Other Interesting Facts Click To Tweet

What is the largest spider in the world?

It is a Goliath Bird-Eater spider, known as “Goliath,” “Theraphosa blondi” or “bird-eater,” and lives in Venezuela, specifically in the Amazon.

Due to its large size, it entered the Guinness World Records in April 1965 as a giant spider, and it can measure up to 30 centimeters and weigh more than 100 grams.

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