Are Tarantulas Intelligent? Facts You Should Know


Animals need a certain intelligence level to help them recognize patterns and make relevant decisions. Without these abilities, it would be challenging to find food, escape predators, or hunt for food. If you want to keep a tarantula or are thinking of getting one, it is vital to understand how they reason and how intelligent they are.  

Based on their level of critical thinking and decision-making, tarantulas are not very intelligent. They don’t have memory and cannot learn their names or identify their owners. When in the wild, they entirely rely on their webs to feel vibrations that aid in detecting prey or incoming predators. 

Read on for all the fascinating facts about these majestic creatures. We answer all your burning questions and debunk the myths surrounding how the tarantula brain works. Read on as we give you all the exciting facts.

Are Tarantulas Intelligent

Do Tarantulas Have Brains?

According to various research results, the brain acts as the control center for any living organism’s nervous system. Therefore, the brain controls all motor, sensory and biological processes.

Tarantulas have a brain, although tiny, which helps them coordinate their movements. It also helps them hunt, know when to burrow in case of danger and when it is time to mate. A tarantula’s brain has a pinhead/ poppy seed size located in the cephalothorax/ prosoma.

On the other hand, the nervous system is under the esophagus, behind the tiny brain, and connects to the ganglion. This brain, in turn, fuses with various nerves, muscles, and the sensory system. These systems are responsible for the spider’s daily activities, including web-spinning, hunting, and flight. 

How Does a Tarantula’s Brain Work?

Arachnids have the most miniature brains regardless of their size. You might think that the largest tarantula species like the goliath bird eater would have more complex cognitive abilities, but it isn’t the case. Let’s find out how this giant spider’s brain operates and whether it can compare with the human brain system.

A tarantula has a simple miniature brain that allows it to survive in the wild and when interacting with fellow spiders. Most importantly, the spider uses its brain to solve simple tasks thanks to its neural cells (ganglia) that take information from the environment then interpret it. However, the nerve cells aren’t centralized; instead, they run throughout the tarantula’s body. They will twitch if something unfamiliar touches their spiky hair, all in response to stimuli.

The spider’s brain has nerve cells attached to it so that it spread to other body parts. These neural cells perceive the information that the spider requires and guides it on the necessary cause of action. It could be to hide from impending danger, leave a faulty web, or attack an incoming prey. All these are the critical skills the spider needs to survive. Therefore, they are instinctive, and, like any other creature, they can respond fast to external stimuli and, in turn, defend or attack.

Can Tarantulas Think?

Getting into the arachnid mind is fascinating but complex. It takes years of research and elaborate skills to understand whether these tiny creatures can reason and invent ways to solve their daily problems. We dug deeper into animal science research to find out whether these spiders can think like mammals. 

Some scientists are confident that tarantulas think but through their unique ways. Others don’t believe that they can amicably solve their problems like other pets, such as dogs. Based on research, spiders do not have the same cognitive abilities as most household pets. They do not have memory and do not respond when you call them. However, they have the gift of web making, which makes up for their lack of complex problem-solving. Since they still need to hunt and escape predators, they have to rely on their weavings, and this is what scientists peg their arguments. 

Although spiders are not critical thinkers, they can still survive using their innate weaving skills. They can listen to vibrations through their webs and interpret the disturbances accordingly. All animals need to develop a creative craft to outsmart predators and prey. As spiders weave, they can create a motion-sensitive fence that warns them of impending danger. If a predator tries to catch it, it has to go through the web, which vibrates and alerts the spider to initiate flight or fight if possible. In the same light, the web is their clever way to look for food. 

Since they cannot use complex thinking while hunting, their webs come in handy, the prey tends to get stuck in the sticky threads, and even when close, they can rattle the net, and the spider will know when to attack. Therefore, the spider’s reasoning entirely relies on its web, and it is safe to say that they also use it to think. The second you destroy the intricate threads, the tarantula will remain vulnerable to predators and find it hard to hunt. It means that its survival chances will reduce significantly only until it spins another structure.  

How Intelligent Are Tarantulas?

All creatures in the animal kingdom have intelligence levels; otherwise, there wouldn’t be any surviving animals in the wild or in captivity. The only difference is that some are better at problem-solving and critical thinking than others. So, where does the tarantula fall?

Tarantulas rely entirely on their senses and instincts to survive. We cannot group them under the same category as insects like ants and bees. They do not have memory and have no sense of awareness like other creatures. They also don’t have problem-solving skills.

However, you can find isolated cases of smart tarantulas, especially from the species like jumping spiders. These arachnids show impressive hunting skills and are famous for their advanced eyesight and ability to distinguish colors. It doesn’t mean that these creatures are dumb. They can still devise means to survive in the wild to finding food and evading predators, all thanks to their webs.

Tarantulas are not as intelligent as mammals. A predator can sneak up on them at any time and catch them unaware, especially when their webs do not shield them. Researchers state that tarantulas only act to respond to stimuli. You can tell by the way they recoil when something foreign touches them or when a predator approaches, and it gets worse if they don’t have their web around them to vibrate and alert them.

Whatever actions tarantulas take is out of instinct and not because they thought carefully about it. They also don’t remember when they had a similar encounter and the most viable way to solve the problem. 

Before you conclude that your tarantula is entirely dumb, let’s defend it for a moment. Spiders, including tarantulas, are intelligent enough to use their webs to sense motion through vibrations. Therefore, if a predator approaches, they know how to act, and interestingly, they can tighten the strings to help them “hear” better. They also have a great flight and fighting skills, to give them an advantage when dealing with predators and prey. 

Can Tarantulas Recognize Their Owners? 

Most pet parents associate intelligence with their animal’s ability to recognize them. It is mainly seen with dogs who respond when their owners call them and when they are playing. We find it crucial to understand whether your tarantula is intelligent enough to recognize you or even learn its name.

Unfortunately, tarantulas cannot recognize you. Their tiny brains are not complex to help them remember or interpret human voices. It is also improbable that they will learn and respond to their name when you call. All their internal organs are simple, including their brains. Experts say that they only respond to external stimuli that dictate whether they have to fight, stay, or retreat. Only certain species like the jumping spiders have the blessing of acute eyesight; hence, they can distinguish colors and detect minute details.  

Many owners state that their spiders approach them when they call, but it has nothing to do with their ability to remember names. There are many logical explanations that best describe such instances. For one, the spiders could show up during feeding time, especially when you provide food at certain times of the day. Secondly, tarantulas are sensitive to noise; hence, they would come out to find out what’s happening. It would be a coincidence that it is just you yelling their name!

Read more: 1400+ Best Tarantula Names

Wrap Up

Undoubtedly, all animals are intelligent, which explains why they have survived all these years. However, the degree varies since some are better at making decisions than others. Looking at tarantulas, they are not high-ranking intelligent creatures but are still smart in their own way. They can still hunt and detect an intruder approaching then act accordingly. They owe this to their sensitive hairs and web-making skills.

A little-known fact is that spiders use these weavings as motion detectors. They can tell that an enemy is approaching when it rattles the web, which vibrates in response. Similarly, they can detect prey approaching by feeling the vibrations. They also use these intricate threads as traps to catch their meals. Therefore, we can say that spiders are pretty brilliant creatures, although they are not very intelligent.

Harvey Wells

I am an intense cool pets lover. I have tortoises, tarantulas and a few other exotic pets. And I would love to share what I have learned.

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