Spreading Holiday Cheer (and FEAR!)

It’s getting to be Christmas time, and we’re chock full of warm fuzzy feelings here at the Reptile Zoo. It only made sense to talk about our warmest and fuzziest animals on display: TARANTULAS! We were lucky enough to obtain SIX new species of tarantula here at the zoo, and couldn’t wait to talk about them! Before we get into our new species, lets first go over some tarantula anatomy and husbandry!

Tarantulas are large, heavy bodied, often hairy spiders that belong to the family Theraphosidae. There are around 930 identified species of tarantula, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They have 8 legs, 2 chelicera (also known as fangs!) and a pair of pedipalps, which are used for a multitude of tasks, such as catching and holding prey or for mating purposes. These pedipalps are often confused with an extra pair of legs off the front of the tarantula. The hair (which is actually a form of bristle, only mammals grow hair!) that covers the bodies of tarantulas is used for a multitude of purposes depending on the type. Some hairs are used for sensing vibrations, others are used for making noise Different species of North and South American tarantulas have specialized the hair on their abdomens to be a defensive weapon. When threatened, the tarantula will flick their legs over their abdomen, dislodging the hairs and sending them flying in a cloud to scatter around.

If these hairs make contact with skin or mucus membranes, they will cause whatever they touch to itch, sting, and burn for a good long time. Animals that try and prey on these tarantulas learn a painful lesson that those kinds of spiders don’t make good meals. Old World tarantulas lack this special hair, but make up for it with nasty dispositions, preferring to rear up and bite their perceived attackers.

We obtained both old and new world species, all of which are completely gorgeous. Check them out!

Mexican Red Rump Tarantula Brachypelma vagans

The Mexican red rump tarantula is named for the large portion of reddish brown hair found along the top side of the abdomen on its otherwise black body. They are found in Central America and Mexico, though there is a small non-native population established in Florida. They are avid burrowers that prefer scrubland style habitats. Their venom is actually being researched for its possible applications in medicine.

Mexican Red Knee Tarantula Brachypelma smithi

The Mexican Red Knee tarantula is named for the reddish spots of color on the joints of its legs. They are native to the western side of the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges in Mexico. These heavy bodied spiders can feed on insects, small lizards, and frogs. They are popular as pets since they are so pretty, but are prone to flicking urticating hairs. Like the Mexican Red Rump, these tarnatulas like to form burrows.

Mexican Fire Leg Tarantula Brachypelma boehmei

This species of tarantula is named for its bright orange legs. They prefer a dry, scrubland style habitat, and can be found in the Guerrero state in Mexico, along the Central Pacific coast. They are most active at night but can be seen at dawn and dusk. While their venom is mild, they are prone to flicking urticating hair when threatened. They are more finicky than most tarantulas, and make better pets for people more experienced with keeping tarantulas.

Greenbottle Blue Tarantula Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

The Greenbottle Blue is a striking species of tarantula, with bright azure legs, a greenish carapace, and vivid orange abdomen. They are native to Venezuela, and are found in arid climates. They are very fast runners, and are recommended as display species, rather than a handling one. They spin their webs in burrows at the base of shrubs, trees, and cacti. This species will also carpet the surrounding area around their burrows with webbing, and use vibrations to detect passing predators or prey.

Orange Baboon Tarantula Pterinochilus murinus

The Orange Baboon Tarantula is an old world species of spider, found in Southeast and Central Africa. They are extraordinarily aggressive, with an extremely painful bite. These tarantulas have several nicknames based off of this aggression, such as the “Orange Bitey Thing” or “Pterrors”, which is a play off their scientific name. While a very attractive spider, these tarantulas are only recommended for very experienced keepers. When we were first feeding our Orange Baboon Tarantula, it sprinted up the forceps we were using to introduce prey, trying to attack us. The forceps were dropped into its cage, and it was agreed that they were the tarantula’s forceps now. They were later recovered by Mandy, who is one of our braver employees.

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental Tarantula Poecilotheria metallica

This beautiful and exotic species of tarantula can only be found in in a 39 square mile area in Central India, near the town of Gooty. They are an arboreal species of tarantula, spinning their webs in holes in trees. They catch their prey by snatching it out of the air. They are a critically endangered species, with habitat destruction as the main driving force behind their population decline. Their bite is reported to be exceedingly painful even if envenomation does not occur. Their name comes from their gorgeous coloration and patterning.

Well there you have it! Come see these gorgeous spiders in person, now on display right by our hands-on learning zone!

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