One of the largest desert spiders, the Barking Spider (Selenocosmia stirlingi) belongs to a group of spiders commonly called the Australian Tarantula.

A primitive spider known as mygalomorph (a mouse-like spider), it is a hairy tarantula, with eight legs, two body segments and two palps which they use for sensing and felling their prey. Whilst they are common in parts of Central Australia, they have gill-like lungs that require humidity, which is why they create a burrow with a tunnel underground, which enables them to have their preferred underground microclimate.

With at least 17 desert mygalomorphs, that include trap door and funnel web spiders, and all being opportunistic feeders, most of these spiders spend time in the burrow or at their burrow entrance. The barking spider is one of the few that actively forages for food.

The barking spiders burrows are the shape of circular holes, approximately the size of a camera lens cap. They are often found clustered in the leaf litter zones of trees. They are known to quite regularly clean out their burrows and apply a fresh lining of silk with radiating ‘trip wires’ that provide alerts to the spider of nearby potential prey.

Once the Barking Spider catch their prey, they rely on their venom to liquefy the body of the prey, which allows them ”suck” up their meal.

Whilst the Barking Spider is not usually aggressive, they will ‘rear up’ if provoked. Mildly venomous, the bite is painful, and severe illness can result, that include nausea and vomiting for several hours after the bite

Common name
Barking Spider, Bird-eating Spider, Australia Tarantula. It is also known as the Whistling Spider as it makes an audible hiss if disturbed. Both the hissing or barking noise the spider creates is through an action known as stridulation (the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts).


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Infraorder: Mygalomorphae
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Genus: Selenocosmia
  • Species: S. stirlingi
  • Binomial name: Selenocosmia stirlingi

Footnote & References

  1. Australian tarantulas, Australian Museum, www.australian.museum/learn/animals/spiders/australian-tarantulas/
  2. Fauna of the Mulga Country, Australia: The Land Where Time Began, Author M. H. Monroe, www.austhrutime.com/fauna_mulga_land.htm
  3. Barking Spiders, Land for Wildlife News, Alice Springs May 2012, Land for Wildlife, https://wildlife.lowecol.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/LfWnewsletter_May2012.pdf
  4. Australian desert tarantula ‘lost’ in outback Northern Territory dunny on hunt for partner, zoologist says, by Emma Haskin, 31 March 2021, www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-31/australian-desert-tarantula-spider-northern-territory-home/100040360