Factoid #16: Tarantula Hairs??

Mexcian Redknee Tarantula (courtesy WIkipedia)

Mexcian Redknee Tarantula (courtesy WIkipedia)

You know they bite.

But did you know that tarantulas can also get you with their tiny hairs? It’s called “urticulating.” They can either loose them defensively–kind of like a porcupine with its quills–or rub them off on you. These hairs contain tiny amounts of venom which can’t, of course, kill you (just as the tarantula’s bite can’t kill you, unless you’re a mouse–but you knew that, right?), but can be very painful and irritating.

BUT DID YOU ALSO KNOW that some in the medical community are investigating the use of tarantula venom for treating muscular dystrophy? Apparently they’ve identified a peptide in the venom that, when artificially produced, can improve muscle activity. At least in mice. So stay tuned about human health advances, and meanwhile…be nice to spiders.

Because you never know. Those urticulating hairs of theirs might just be worth harvesting someday.

Thanks to my baker-colleague Ben for sending this weird topic my way.


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