Hot Spiced Tarantula

Like your chili extra hot? Here’s another thrill you might enjoy—a tarantula bite!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A study by David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at venom from a West Indian tarantula. It’s shown to activate the same nerve cells that sense the hot, spicy substance in chili peppers.

So when you bite into that innocent-looking black pod in your kung pao chicken, it’s basically like … having a tarantula clamped on your tongue!

Here’s what’s going on: Compounds in both the hot pepper and tarantula venom target a special pain-sensing receptor. It’s known as the capsaicin (cap-SAY-i-sin) receptor. When the hot compound binds to the receptor, it sets off a chain reaction that generates an electrical signal that gets zapped to your brain. Your brain zaps back with a feeling of pain.

Studying such pain-producing compounds gives scientists insight into how new medications can be designed to treat pain from diseases.

New trend for restaurants? Hot sauce, pico de gallo, and tarantula! Just spit-ballin’.