The tarantula spider, or tarantula, has a rather memorable and very colorful appearance. This insect is quite large in size, with long, hairy limbs and a bright color, which becomes even brighter with each subsequent molt. This type of spider is divided into many subspecies. However, they are all considered poisonous, to one degree or another.
For an adult, healthy person, their bite is unlikely to be fatal, but it can provoke chills, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, high fever, a severe allergic reaction, and a burn. For an elderly, debilitated person, or a child, an animal of a small size, the bite of this insect can be fatal.
Origin of the species and description
This spider belongs to arthropod insects, is a representative of the arachnid class, order of spiders, family of spiders – tarantulas. The name of this poisonous spider comes from a painting by the German artist Maria Sibylla Merian, who depicted a spider attacking a hummingbird. She herself witnessed this episode, which she was able to observe during her stay in Suriname.
These spiders are classified as a suborder of primitive arachnids. In various sources, they are often referred to as tarantulas. However, this is due to an incorrect, not entirely correct translation of their name. Many scientists and researchers consider it appropriate to separate tarantulas into a separate class of insects, such as scorpions.
For the first time, a description of this type of arthropod appeared in the 18th century after the German artist returned from a long trip along the coast of South America, where few people were in those days. After she witnessed the unusual scene of a spider attacking a small bird, she transferred it to her canvas. Upon arrival at home, the picture was presented to the public. However, this episode was severely criticized by the public, since no one could believe that an insect could eat small invertebrate animals or birds.
However, after only a century and a half, a sufficient amount of evidence was obtained for this phenomenon and the name tarantula is very firmly attached to the arthropod. Today, spiders are quite common on different continents. They are divided into many subspecies, of which researchers number about a thousand.
Appearance and features
The tarantula possesses quite memorable, bright appearance. It has long limbs covered with hard, thick hairs. They perform the function of the organs of touch and smell.
Visually, it seems that arthropods have six pairs of limbs, but if you look closely, it becomes clear that the spider has only four pairs of limbs. These are paws, one pair of which falls on chelicerae, which are used for digging holes, protection, hunting and moving caught prey, as well as pedipalps, which perform the function of tactile organs. Chelicerae, in which there are ducts of poisonous glands, are directed forward.
Some subspecies are quite large, reaching 27-30 centimeters. On average, the body length of one adult is from 4 to 10-11 centimeters, excluding the length of the limbs. The average body weight is 60-90 grams. However, there are individuals whose mass reaches about 130-150 grams.
Each of the subspecies of this species has a bright and very specific color. With each subsequent molt, the color becomes brighter and more saturated.
An interesting fact: During the molting period, not only the color becomes brighter and more saturated, but the size of the body also increases. Some individuals can increase three or four times at the moment of molting!
Sometimes, in the process of molting, a spider cannot free its limbs. By nature, they are endowed with the ability to discard them. However, after three or four molts, they are restored again.
The body of an arthropod consists of two segments: the cephalothorax and abdomen, which are connected to each other by a dense isthmus. Body segments are covered with a dense exoskeleton – chitin. Such a protective layer protects arthropods from mechanical damage and helps prevent excessive moisture loss. This is especially important for those insects that live in regions with a hot, arid climate.
The cephalothorax is protected by a solid shield called the carapace. On its front surface are four pairs of eyes. The organs of the digestive tract and reproductive system are located in the abdomen. At the end of the abdomen are appendages that allow you to weave web threads.
Where does the tarantula live?
Tarantulas are quite common in nature and live almost throughout the entire globe. The only exception is the territory of Antarctica. Spiders are somewhat less common than in other regions in Europe.
Geographic regions of distribution of arthropods:
- South America;
- North America;
- New Zealand;
The habitat region is largely determined by the species. Some species are drought-resistant and settle in deserts with a hot, sultry climate. Others prefer tropical or equatorial forest zones. Depending on the environment and type of habitat, spiders are divided into several categories: burrowing, arboreal and earthen. Accordingly, they live in burrows, in trees or shrubs, or on the surface of the earth.
It is characteristic that at various stages of their development, spiders can change their image and place of residence. The larvae, which at this stage live in burrows, emerge from the burrows upon reaching puberty and spend most of their time on the surface of the earth. Many tarantulas that prefer to live in holes dig them out on their own and strengthen them by braiding them with cobwebs. In some cases, they can occupy the holes of small rodents that have been eaten by a spider. Spiders that live on trees or shrubs can build special tubes from the web.
Due to the fact that spiders are considered sedentary arthropods, they spend most of their time in chosen or made shelters. Female individuals who have eaten tightly and thoroughly may not leave their shelters for several months.
Now you know where the tarantula spider lives, let's now see what you can feed the tarantula.
What does the tarantula eat?
Insects rarely eat meat, but they are considered predators and eat only animal food . Structural features of the digestive tract require easily digestible, tender food.
What serves as a food base for tarantula spiders:
- small rodents and invertebrates;
- smaller arthropods, including spiders;
The digestive organs are designed in such a way that they cannot cope with poultry meat. However, in nature, there are indeed cases of spider attacks on small birds. The main part of the diet of tarantulas is small insects – cockroaches, bloodworms, flies, arthropods. Relatives of arachnids can also become prey.
Tarantula spiders cannot be called active insects, therefore, in order to catch their prey, they most often wait for their prey in ambush. Thanks to ultra-sensitive hairs, they feel every movement of potential prey. They are also able to determine the size and type of prey. When it gets as close as possible, the spider attacks with lightning speed, injecting poison into it.
During the period when the spiders are too hungry, they can chase the victim, or carefully sneak up on it until they get as close as possible. Spiders that have just emerged from eggs do not experience hunger and need for food.
Character and lifestyle features
The tarantula spider leads a solitary lifestyle. They tend to spend most of their time in their chosen shelters. If the spiders are full, they may not leave their shelter for several months. These types of spiders tend to lead a solitary, sedentary lifestyle. If necessary, spiders leave their shelter mainly at night.
This type of arthropod is characterized by unpredictable behavior, as well as a change in habits throughout various life cycles. When choosing a hiding place, spiders prefer to stay close to vegetation in order to increase the chances of finding a food source. Adult spiders that live in the crowns of trees have the best ability to weave webs.
One of the most important processes in the life of every arthropod is molting. Young individuals molt almost every month. The older the spider becomes, the less often molting occurs. During molting, the pack grows, improves its color. Before the start of the molt, the spiders stop feeding to make it easier to get rid of the tight chitinous cover. Most often, arthropods turn over on their backs to get rid of their shells more easily and quickly.
Tarantulas are deservedly considered the champions in life expectancy. Some individuals live up to 30 years. Average life expectancy is 20-22 years. Despite their impressive size, tarantulas have many enemies when living in natural conditions.
Arthropods have means of defense for self-defense:
- excrement attack;
- stings with injection of poison;
- burning villi in the abdomen.
With the help of hairs, females protect their future offspring. They weave them into a web, which envelop the cocoon. An effective weapon that scares off enemies is a stream of excrement, which spiders direct at the enemy's eye.
Social structure and reproduction
Male mature much faster than females, but their life expectancy is much lower than that of females. A male individual lives no more than a year, and if he manages to mate with a female, then he lives even less.
Males have special hooks, which are commonly called tibal. With their help, males keep females, at the same time they protect themselves from them, since in the process of mating, females are unpredictable and quite aggressive. Before starting to search for a suitable companion, males weave a special web, on which a small amount of seminal fluid is secreted. Then they grab the edge of the web with their limbs and pull along.
Even if the female is located towards a potential partner, mating does not occur without performing special rituals. With their help, arthropods find out whether they belong to the same species or not. Each species is characterized by special rituals for recognizing relatives: shaking the body, tapping the limbs, etc.
The mating process can be instantaneous, or it can last several hours. It consists in the transfer of seminal fluid by male pedipalps into the body of the female. After mating is over, the males instantly try to move away. Otherwise, the female eats the male.
Subsequently, the formation of eggs occurs in the body of the female. When the time comes, the female lays her eggs. The number of eggs depends on the subspecies. The female can lay from a few dozen to a thousand eggs. Then the female makes a kind of cocoon in which she lays her eggs and incubates them. This process takes from 20 to 100 days.
During this period, females are especially aggressive and unpredictable. They can desperately and fearlessly protect future offspring, or they can eat everything without hesitation if they experience a strong feeling of hunger. Nymphs emerge from the cocoon, which grow during molting and turn into larvae, and then into adults.
Natural enemies of tarantulas
Despite their impressive size, intimidating appearance and the presence of protective mechanisms, tarantulas have a fairly large number of enemies in natural conditions. They themselves often become prey to other insects. One of the worst enemies of the tarantula spider are various varieties of centipedes. They prey not only on tarantulas, but also on other, larger spiders and snakes.
The tarantula often becomes the prey of a representative of the genus ethmostigmus, or larger arachnids. Many amphibians are also listed as enemies of the tarantula, including the giant frog, white-lipped tree frog, toad-aga, etc. some invertebrates are not averse to occasionally eating tarantulas.
This type of arachnid is also attacked by parasitic insects that lay eggs in the body of spiders. From the eggs, larvae subsequently appear, which parasitize on the body of the host, eating it from the inside or outside. When the number of parasites becomes huge, the spider simply dies due to the fact that the larvae literally eat it alive.
Interesting fact: This arthropod has a serious competitor in the form of the goliath spider. In the course of their natural existence, they compete for food.
Population and species status
Today, the tarantula is considered a fairly common arachnid. They are distributed almost everywhere. The exception is Antarctica, as well as some regions of Europe. There are several species that are not as common as others, but they are not included in the list of representatives of flora and fauna listed in the Red Book.
There are no special events or programs related to the protection of spiders in any country in the world. However, where spiders are quite common, information work is being carried out with the population regarding the behavior when meeting with a poisonous arthropod, as it can be a serious danger.
The tarantula spider is quite common in various countries of the world, as a pet . Breeders and lovers of exotic animals often choose it. He is not whimsical in terms of conditions of detention, is not rare and expensive, does not require any special nutrition. To get such an unusual pet, you need to carefully study the conditions of its maintenance and nutrition.
The tarantula spider has a rather specific, bright appearance and impressive size. It is distributed in almost all parts of the world. When meeting with him, do not forget that the spider is poisonous. Exotic animal breeders are advised to familiarize themselves with first aid measures for insect bites.