Indian Ornamental Tarantula

 

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Range: India and parts of surrounding countries, being a primarily arboreal species the

Habitat: Dense RainForest, generally a humid environment.  There can be periods of significant drought in certain parts of this spiders range.  As a result this species is prone to significant web production that could be considered cocoon like, this cocoon like web will help retain the limited moisture available during times of low humidity. 

Natural Diet: Insects

Diet at RainForest: Crickets

Size: 3-6"'   Females much larger than males, this species of tarantula appears much larger than most due to the very long leg spans, the abdomen is actually not much larger than most other tarantulas but the deceptive length of the legs makes this spider appear huge!

RainForest Facts:

It is estimated that there are over 50,000 species of spiders, and over 850 recognized species of tarantulas. 

Like all spiders this animal is not an insect, it is in fact an arthropod (AR-throw-pod), or an eight legged creature.  This, and all species of spiders, are actually composed of two main body parts, the abdomen and cephalothorax.   Insects only have six legs.

Since we have our bones on the inside of our body we do not have an exoskeleton like spiders, this exoskeleton is actually their protection from predators as well as harsh environmental conditions.

Molting

Spiders, like many other arthropods molt, or shed their skin.  This process is quite amazing to see for the first time.  After a spider has molted there is an identical replica of the living animal left in the enclosure.  More than one pet keeper has awoken to believe their pet had a huge baby over night! 

Having an exoskeleton is quite handy for many things, but it in fact would limit your growth, so having the ability to shed off your body armor from time to time would help with many factors including growing!  Molting also helps with the amazing process of regenerating a leg, in the event a spider looses a leg to an accident or a predator the animal can actually molt it's exoskeleton and a brand new leg will pop out. 

As many people who live in New England know, crabs also molt, in fact a delicacy in many restaurants is soft shelled crab.  The restaurants hold the crabs until they shed their exoskeleton and serve the animals immediately after molting so that the new outer shell has not had a chance to harden.   

 

 

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 ircitating hairs, sounds a lot like irritating, and for good reason.  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 leg the tarantula 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. 

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! 

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!  Enjoy!

Our spiders at RainForest are maintained at a relatively high humidity of 70-75% with the average day time high temperature of 85-88 degrees. 

 

Status in Wild: Declining due to loss of habitat and over collection to supply both the pet trade and the specimen trade for scientific study.

 

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