To some people they’re scary, to some people they’re beautiful, to other people they’re cute. I’m of course talking about the tarantula – one of the most popular exotic pets. These spiders are quite mysterious, and because of that, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding it. Today, I’m going to discuss one of the most commonly asked questions: do tarantulas jump?
There are many people that believe that tarantulas are capable of jumping significant heights (I’ve heard claims of them being able to jump up to 4 feet!) and biting people. But is this really true? Can they lunge from the floor, set their fangs into you, and inject you with venom? Let’s find out.
The short answer is this: Despite what many people believe, tarantulas are not really capable of jumping. Sure, some arboreal species (such as the pink toe) are capable of performing slight jumps, but definitely not very high. It’s a myth that’s been propagated a lot but has no basis in reality. The most they can do is lunge one or two inches at their prey. Most of the tarantula’s movements are slow, and they are simply too large to be able to jump. Most tarantulas would actually hurt (or kill) themselves if they were able to jump to any significant height.
Can tarantulas jump?
Before we go into whether or not tarantulas can jump, we have to make a distinction between the two different types of tarantulas. First off, you have the terrestrial tarantulas. These spend most of their lives living on the ground. Secondly, you have arboreal tarantulas, which spend most of their lives in trees, bushes, and branches.
The terrestrial tarantulas are not capable of jumping at all. The most these T’s can do is lunge at their prey.
However, there are some reports that there are arboreal tarantulas that are capable of jumping moderate distances. The distance they can jump is nowhere near the 3 or 4 feet you sometimes hear in rumors, but it’s quite a respectable distance for a tarantula. Usually, they do not jump as a means of attack, but rather as a last resort when they’re defending themselves. For instance, they can jump from a tree branch if they see no other option to escape.
The most notorious arboreal tarantula that is capable of jumping is the Chilean Rose Tarantula. Especially the juveniles of this species have been reported to be able to jump respectable distances.
Where does the myth come from?
Now that you know that tarantulas aren’t great jumpers, you might wonder where the myth that they are capable of jumping several feet into the air originates from. With myths like these, it’s often difficult to locate the source. However, my educated guess is that it has something to do with jumping spiders (which do exist). In particular, a video released by BBC Earth covering the Hyllus Gigantus is likely to have contributed to the spread of the myth.
In this video, they showcase the largest jumping spider in the world. It’s about an inch in length, and to the untrained eye, it kind of looks like a tarantula, even though it’s not part of the same family at all.
These spiders are capable of jumping very significant distances, being able to jump distances of up to 8 times their body length (or up to 8 inches).
The video is quite interesting, if you’d like to watch it, I’ll embed it down below.
Another contributing factor might be movies and popular culture. There are plenty of movies where T’s jump onto humans.
Tarantulas jumping at prey
If you’re a big fan of these spiders and spend your whole day watching videos about them, I’m sure you’ve encountered feeding videos where they “jump” at their prey. While these videos are interesting to watch, and it’s certainly impressive that they can pounce so quickly, I would classify these “jumps” more like a lunge than actual jumps. They do not cover a significant distance and it’s debatable if they even completely leave the ground.
For instance, take a look at this video:
Even the uploader titled it “rose hair jumps” and while it’s definitely a cool video, in my opinion, this is more of a lunge at their prey rather than a real jump.
Will a tarantula die if you drop it?
Tarantulas can definitely die if you drop them. It all depends on how high their fall is and what they land on. If they fall from a very small height onto something soft they will most likely survive. If they fall a long distance onto something hard they will usually die. When I’m talking about a small height, I really mean a small height. A fall of more than a few inches is very likely to kill or substantially damage them.
The reason why relatively small falls can kill them is that they have an exoskeleton. It does a great job protecting them against predators but is not so great at protecting them against falls.
Tarantulas are not capable of surviving falls from very great heights. Therefore, if you’re handling a tarantula it’s best to keep it as close to the ground as possible. As I’ve said, some of these spiders have a tendency to jump off tree branches when they feel threatened, and they can do the same when you’re holding them in your hand.
Can tarantulas jump out of their enclosure?
First off, most enclosures have a lid on the top, which makes it impossible for the T to escape, even if they were able to jump high enough to do so.
Since they’re not capable of jumping very high, they can’t really jump out of their enclosure, even if there’s no lid on it. As long as the walls of their enclosure are more than a couple of inches high, you don’t have to worry about them being able to escape by jumping. However, since many tarantulas are capable of climbing the glass, you should make sure to have a lid on it regardless.
Instead, escapes are much more likely to happen because another pet (a cat for instance) gets curious and knocks over their enclosure, allowing the T to just wander out.
So, I believe this has given an adequate answer to the question “do tarantulas jump”. To summarize, tarantulas are not really capable of jumping. Yes, they can cover a small distance of 1 to 2 inches when they lunge at their prey or make slight jumps out of tree branches when they feel threatened, but they can not jump 3 to 4 feet in the air like some rumors would have you believe.
These rumors most likely originate from videos about the Hyllus Gigantus, the largest jumping spider in existence, and old horror movies, but hold no basis in reality. So don’t worry, a tarantula will definitely not jump at you.
You might also be interested in: Are tarantulas friendly?
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