Everybody knows what spiders are, and nearly everybody knows what tarantulas are. While they seem like the same thing, it’s confusing that tarantulas are treated as sort of their own unique class.
Are tarantulas considered spiders, then? If they are, what category of spider do they fall under? If they aren’t… then what are they?
Fortunately, the answer is fairly straightforward, but there’s some terminology that isn’t.
Are Tarantulas Spiders?
Yes, tarantulas are spiders. They’re a member of the Theraphosidae family, which is under the Araneae order. Every creature under the Araneae order is considered a spider.
So, simply put, tarantulas are classified as spiders.
What gets confusing, though, is that tarantulas aren’t considered “true spiders”.
Below, I’ll elaborate a bit more on this concept.
The Confusing Spider/Tarantula Classifications
In short, all spiders belong to the order Araneae. This order is split into three sub-sections, which are Araneomorphae (44,000+ species), Mygalomorphae (2,900+ species), and Mesothelae (100+ species).
Where it gets confusing, though, is that Araneomorphs are considered “true” spiders, while the other two sub-orders are considered more primitive.
Due to the fact that tarantulas belong to the Mygalomorphae infraorder, they aren’t technically considered “true” spiders. However, this is more of a fancy name and not much more.
The main difference between Araneomorphs and Mygalomorphs is the orientation of their fangs.
Araneomorphs have chelicerae (fangs) that point forward diagonally and cross when pinched. Mygalomorphs have fangs that point straight down.
While exact terminology and classifications can be confusing, tarantulas are still considered spiders. They’re essentially a sub-section of spiders.
Spider classifications are changing all the time, so if you’re interested in getting very specific with their taxonomy, be prepared to stay on your toes.