Tarantula

 

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Rose Hair Tarantula  

Range: Chili, South America 

Habitat: Desert Regions , lightly forested habitats

Natural Diet: Insects, small vertebrates

Diet at RainForest: Crickets, cockroaches

Size: 2-4"'   Females are substantially larger than males.  Females are capable of living for over 20 years, males average approximately 4-5 years.  Most spiders exhibit significant dimorphism.

RainForest Facts: A Tarantulas hairy covering actually has two separate functions.  The first function of the hairs is to sense air movement around the spider, this allows the tarantula to both detect prey as well as warn the spider of potential enemies!  The hairs are called urticating hairs, sounds a lot like irritating, and for good reason.  Researchers have determined that there are actually four different types of urticating hairs on the body of some tarantuals.

The hairs will break off the abdomen and irritate the skin of other animals, including humans.  Tarantulas can actually use their back legs to flick the hairs off their bodies and onto potential enemies!

Each Tarantula leg is made up of seven parts with two claws at the end and a tuft of hair for extra gripping power!  A spider has eight eyes, they are very small and generally not very strong, the spider rarely depends on it's eyesight.  Huge fangs actually help hold the prey item after the Tarantula has grabbed the food item.   Each tarantula leg is actually powered by over 30 muscle groups.  Much like other small creatures the spider is capable of easily lifting several times its own body weight. 

Most Tarantulas do not hunt by building webs, they are generally more like a leopard or a cheetah, stalking slowly on the ground the spider will quickly pounce on and hold their food item while their powerful venom goes to work!   In fact the tarantula actually uses it eye sight very little to hunt, being almost exclusively nocturnal the tarantula will actually use the darkest of night as the perfect time to go out and find a meal. 

There are even various types of tarantulas that dwell in trees!  The Pink Toe is a classic example of an arboreal tarantula.  The Pink Toe will build it's nest under bark that may be pulling away from damage on a tree limb or branch, under this bark the spider will line the cavity with silk to create a safe, moist hiding place from which to hunt bugs!

The Tarantula has the amazing ability to regenerate a leg.  In fact being closely related to crabs the best way to understand their regenerative powers is to simply look at the practice of fishing for Stone Crabs in Florida.  Once the crab is caught the claw is broken off and the crab is thrown back into the water.  The damage causes the animal to shed it's exoskeleton and and produce a new claw.  The Tarantula can perform the same magic feat!

So the next time you order crab legs off the menu just remember, you are just eating a giant Tarantula!

 

 

Camouflage and concealment:   Even though we may consider the tarantula to be a giant spider the reality is each of the species of spiders has to deal with much larger predators in their respective environments.   The central and south American Spiders typically are on the dinner menu for the Coatimundi, as a result the spider in many cases wishes to hide, colors or pigments in the exoskeletons of certain species allow them to blend into their backgrounds thus making them disappear in plaint sight!

 

Do tarantulas bleed?

Tarantula blood is not like our own.  Our blood contains iron and of course is red in color.  The tarantula actually has what appears to be blue blood and contains copper instead of the iron found in our own.  We have hemoglobin that actually helps carry the oxygen throughout our body to help power our muscles, the spider actually has hemocyanin and it is much less efficient at moving the oxygen around the spiders body.  Since most spiders are not as active as humans and other mammals the lack of ability to move the oxygen around is not an issue.  But much like cold blooded reptiles the spider is actually much more efficient at breathing when temperatures are higher and their body consumes more oxygen.

 

 

 

 

What's In A Name?

Now That's a Big Spider

Where you live will often times determine what you call certain plants or animals.

While people in the United States have given the name Tarantula to large, hairy spiders it is fun to learn that in places like Africa they call them Baboon spiders, and in South America they are known as monkey spiders!

 

For many thousands of years people have both feared and revered the spider.  Ancient peoples of  Nazca, Peru in South America created a drawing of a spider that was over 150 feet long! 

Fossil records indicate that tarantulas have inhabited the earth for nearly 300 million years.  The very first of the giant spiders we know as tarantulas appeared during the "Great Age of the Dinosaur" or the Mesozoic era. 

Status in Wild: Stable, however continued pressure may result in a serious decline in wild populations.  This spider is still imported in very large numbers for the pet trade.    Captive breeding of this species of Tarantula is rare given the inexpensive cost of wild caught animals. 

 

 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN