The presence of Mygalomorph spiders in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, first became apparent to the scientific world in 1804, when the species Mygale fasciata was described. In 1850, C. Koch split up the genus Mygale, and placed the species fasciata into the new genus Scurria. Because this genus was already in use for a mollusc, a new genus needed to be created and thus in 1885 naturalist Eugene Simon allocated the name Poecilotheria to the genus.
The name Poecilotheria is derived from Greek "Poikilos" – Spotted and "therion" wild beast. The genus Poecilotheria is endemic to the island of Sri Lanka and India, meaning it is not found in any other country in the world. There are 5 species of Poecilotheria recorded in Sri Lanka, these are: Poecilotheria fasciata, Poecilotheria ornata, Poecilotheria pederseni, Poecilotheria smithi and Poecilotheria subfusca.