How to Tell the Age of a Tarantula
Things You'll Need
Magnifying glass (as high-powered as possible)
Tarantulas are one of the most sought-after spider pets in the world. Different genders and species of these spiders can have extreme variances in life expectancy. It's always good to get a younger spider if you want a pet that will live for a long time. Unfortunately, telling the age of tarantulas is one of the most difficult aspects of owning them. Using a few secrets of the species, however, will give you a good estimate of how old your tarantula is.
Find out if your tarantula is male or female. There is a significant difference between how long males and females live. Males can live 3 to 6 years, while many females can last 30 to 40 years. Pick up your spider, and look at the underside of its abdomen. Find the area of the spider where its legs and abdomen meet.
Examine the abdomen of the tarantula with a magnifying glass in a well-lit area. While some spiders' size will make it easy to see what you need to, a magnifying glass never hurts. You are looking for what are called "fusillae" -- which appear to be short, slightly bent, stiff hairs. These are very important, because the female does not have them, and they are obvious even on younger spiders. In some species of tarantulas, these "hairs" will be the same color as the surrounding area.
Check for signs that your spider is mature. If the spider is male, look at its pedipalps (many consider these fangs). If these pedipalps are large and boulbous, then the tarantula has reached maturity. Also look for tibial spurs, which appear as hooks on the long segment of the tarantula's front legs, as signs of maturity.
Determine the maturity of the tarantula if it is female. This is much more difficult. Spider owners often wait for the female tarantula to molt, then do a microscopic examination of its spermatheca. Most females, once they reach maturity, are two-thirds the size of their full-grown size. Look online for the specific species of tarantula that you own, and determine if the female is at least two-thirds its full size.
If the tarantula is male and has not yet reached maturity, it may be between 2 to 5 years old. If the male tarantula does have the bodily signs that show maturity, it is most likely 4 to 6.5 years old. Male tarantulas live only for about 1 to 1.5 years after they have matured. If the tarantula is female, and has not reached maturity, its age will range from 2 to 5 years old. Once a female matures, she will continue to molt and may live another 25 to 35 years. A female that has reached maturity may be anywhere from 2 to 38 years old.
- Factors such as how much the spider eats and the temperature of its habitat can effect how quickly a tarantula matures. So the most reliable way to tell a tarantula's age (and almost the only way for female tarantulas) is by obtaining it before it reaches maturity.
- There can be huge variances in spider size, even when they are the same age. Keeping tarantulas in extreme high or low weather, or over/underfeeding them, can drastically effect their size.
- Be careful when holding your spider. You do not want to harm or kill it while holding it upside down to examine it.
Curtis Fease started writing professionally in 2007. He has a dual bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice from Augusta State University.
The Life Cycle of a Spider
All spiders, from the tiniest jumping spider to the largest tarantula, have the same general life cycle. They mature in three stages: egg, spiderling, and adult. Though the details of each stage vary from one species to another, they are all very similar.
The spider mating ritual also varies and males must approach a female carefully or he may be mistaken for prey. Even after mating, many male spiders will die though the female is very independent and will care for her eggs on her own. Despite the rumors, the majority of female spiders do not eat their mates.
Egg, the Embryonic Stage
After mating, female spiders store sperm until they are ready to produce eggs. The mother spider first constructs an egg sac from strong silk that is tough enough to protect her developing offspring from the elements. She then deposits her eggs inside it, fertilizing them as they emerge. A single egg sac may contain just a few eggs, or several hundred, depending on the species.
Spider eggs generally take a few weeks to hatch. Some spiders in temperate regions will overwinter in the egg sac and emerge in spring. In many spider species, the mother guards the egg sac from predators until the young hatch. Other species will place the sac in a secure location and leave the eggs to their own fate.
Wolf spider mothers carry the egg sac with them. When they're ready to hatch, they will bite the sac open and free the spiderlings. Also unique to this species, the young spend as many as ten days hanging onto their mother's back.
Spiderling, the Immature Stage
Immature spiders, called spiderlings, resemble their parents but are considerably smaller when they first hatch from the egg sac. They immediately disperse, some by walking and others by a behavior called ballooning.
Spiderlings that disperse by ballooning will climb onto a twig or other projecting object and raise their abdomens. They release threads of silk from their spinnerets, letting the silk catch the wind and carry them away. While most spiderlings travel short distances this way, some can be carried to remarkable heights and across long distances.
The spiderlings will molt repeatedly as they grow larger and they're very vulnerable until the new exoskeleton forms completely. Most species reach adulthood after five to 10 molts. In some species, the male spiders will be fully mature as they exit the sac. Female spiders are always larger than males, so often take more time to mature.
Adult, the Sexually Mature Stage
When the spider reaches adulthood, it is ready to mate and begin the life cycle all over again. In general, female spiders live longer than males; males often die after mating. Spiders usually live just one to two years, though this does vary by species.
Tarantulas have unusually long life spans. Some female tarantulas live 20 years or more. Tarantulas also continue molting after reaching adulthood. If the female tarantula molts after mating, she will need to mate again, because she sheds the sperm storage structure along with her exoskeleton.
Resources and Further Reading
- Cranshaw, Whitney, and Richard Redak. Bugs Rule!: An Introduction to the World of Insects. Princeton University, 2013.
- Evans, Arthur V. National Wildlife Federation: Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling, 2007.
- Savransky, Nina, and Jennifer Suhd-Brondstatter. “Spiders: An Electronic Field Guide.” Field Biology, Brandeis University, 2006.
Watch a Tarantula Crawl Out of Its Own Skeleton
Watching a tarantula move can make a person's skin crawl -- especially when the arachnid is crawling out of its own skin.
More accurately, tarantulas have what's known as an exoskeleton, the stiff outer structure housing the spider's internal organs similar to how human skin protects internal organs. To grow larger, tarantulas must form a new exoskeleton and shed their previous, smaller coverings in a process called molting.
This time-lapse video shows a female Mexican Red Knee tarantula molting, an event that takes more than three hours but that is compressed here into a minute. To wriggle out of its old exoskeleton, the spider lies on its side and slowly pulls out its legs, like someone peeling off a tight pair of jeans.
Both male and female tarantulas molt several times until they reach their full size. Mature Mexican Red Knee tarantulas typically get to be four to five inches in body size, with a leg span of six to seven inches.
Depending on the external conditions such as temperature or humidity, males can reach maturity within three to seven years, and they typically live for only one year after their last molt. Females, however, reach maturity in four to ten years and then can live to be as old as 25.
This tarantula is a juvenile, according to its owner Jason Bauer, who shot the video footage. That means it will molt several more times in its life.
During the molting process, tarantulas contract their abdomens, which pushes fluid into the upper body, or cephalothorax. The fluid increases the pressure already on the strained exoskeleton, allowing the tarantula to break through its weak spots.
Andrine Shufran from Oklahoma State University's Department of Entomology put it more simply:
"She essentially pops off the top of her head and pulls her body out."
Shufran noted that, after molting, the spider's new skin is soft, making it more vulnerable to predation. The new exoskeleton generally hardens after about an hour or week, depending on the species.
Before Bauer's tarantula molted, he observed it undergoing physical changes. The bald spot on its abdomen grew larger, and the skin just visible underneath turned from pink to nearly black. The dark coloring is a result of the fresh exoskeleton forming underneath, which can be seen after the spider's molt.
Tarantula eating habits also change drastically before molting.
"She literally had her mouth submerged [in water] for four hours, and I had to fill her bowl up some more," Bauer says.
The tarantula eventually stopped eating altogether and was observed laying still for roughly two weeks before Bauer found it on its side molting.
According to Shufran, these are all normal behaviors that precede molting. Because tarantulas grow a new exoskeleton underneath their old one, they develop a lubricating layer between the two skeletons. During the molting process, everything from a tarantula's eyes to their fangs becomes detached from their old skeleton, and they often cease eating in the weeks prior to prevent getting stuck in their old shell.
"Tarantulas that get stuck while molting nearly always die," said Shufran.
Many animals that shed their skin later eat their molt to regain energy lost during the molting process. Tarantulas, however, are covered in multiple, itchy hairs that are easily popped off and used for defense.
According to Bauer, his spider stayed next to its former shell for several days but never touched it.
Wikijunior:Bugs/Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula
What does it look like[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Knees are black with patches of red or orange hair on their leg joints. They usually weigh about 1/2 ounce. They are 4 to 5 inches long with a 6 to 7 inch leg span. They have 8 legs made up of 7 parts plus a claw. Each foot has 2 claws.
The dark abdomen is covered with brown hairs. The carapace, a hard protective covering, is creamy beige with a distinctive black square. There are 2 pairs of web-producing organs (spinnerets) on the back side of the abdomen. There are two leg-like organs at the front called palps.
They have 8 eyes located around the head. They can see forward and backward, but only see shades of light and dark.
Where does it live?[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas live along the central Pacific coast of Mexico, from southern Jalisco to north western Oaxaca State. They are found inland to the states of Mexico and Morelos. They do not live in the United States.
Their habitat is coastal land and desert scrubland. They live in rocky areas and rocky outcrops. They burrow at the base of cacti and thorny bushes in deciduous forests. Burrows usually have one entrance just a little wider than the tarantula itself.
What does it eat?[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas are carnivores (meat eaters). They eat insects, lizards, frogs, small birds, and mammals. When an insect or other prey walks across the web, it is ambushed and injected with venom. The venom kills the prey and turns it to liquid so it can be digested. Undigested parts are usually wrapped in a web and moved to another area of the burrow.
How does it defend itself?[edit | edit source]
Their natural enemies are lizards, snakes, spider-eating birds, and some wasps. They are usually very docile and not aggressive. When threatened, they stand on their back legs. Threatening behavior is used to scare predators away. If provoked, they throw off barbed hairs from the abdomen. Hairs fly in all directions and cause irritation to eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.
What stages of growth does it go through?[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas go through main growth stages: egg, spiderling, and adult. Young spiderlings often look like small versions of adults. They grow by shedding or molting the exoskeleton (outer covering). In the first 4 months spiderlings molt every 2 weeks. Adults molt about once a year.
Spiderlings are able to live on their own at about 15 days old. Males mature about 4 years of age and live about 10 years. Females mature at 6 or 7 years of age and live 25 to 30 years.
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas mate between July and October in the rainy season. After mating, females often become aggressive causing males to flee. After mating, females sometimes try to kill and eat the male. This behavior has not been seen in the wild.
Mature females add extra silk inside the burrow during the reproductive season. They make a webbed carpet extending out from the burrow entrance. They wrap fertilized eggs in a silk egg sac. The egg sac contains one-hundred to six-hundred eggs. Eggs hatch between 1 and 3 months. Spiderlings may remain in the egg sac for 3 weeks after hatching. They spend another 3 weeks in the burrow then disperse.
What special behavior does it exhibit?[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas have 8 legs but only 6 are used for walking. The front 2 are used to capture prey. The ends of the legs are sensitive to movement and help the tarantula detect prey.
Lost legs can be re-grown during molting. The molting process takes several hours. During molting, the old exoskeleton splits open. The tarantula lies on its back and slowly pulls out its entire body including hairs. It is very vulnerable to predators in this state.
How does this bug affect people?[edit | edit source]
Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantulas benefit people by keeping insect populations in check. They are often seen in Hollywood films.
They make docile and colorful pets. In the wild they are threatened by people who collect them for the pet trade. Many are bred in captivity.
Their bite is painful because they have large fangs. People report the pain is like the sting of a bee or a wasp. The venom can cause an allergic reaction.
They throw barbed hairs when threatened. The hairs can cause skin irritation or a painful rash. Hairs can cause blindness if they hit the eyes.
References[edit | edit source]
Dalton, S. (2008). Spiders the ultimate predators. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
Hillyard, P. (2007). The private life of spiders. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kelly, L. (2009.) Spiders learning to love them. Crows Nest NSW 2065 Australia: Allen & Unwin.
Stages tarantula growth
Please can some one explain all the stages of a T
Instars, Embroyology, and development page 38-40 TKG Revised edition of 2009 As reference.
The lifestyle changes and form of immature individuals of many arthropods is known as instars. i.e. growth
With each molt their growth and development proceeds, and each stage consist of traits not present in the previous or applicable to the present. This means that their is a certain amount of molts between a nymph and a mature specimen.
This naming of these stages are known as instars.
An instar is defined as the stage or state of development between molts(Rupert et al., 2003) or an intermolt stage in the development of an arthropod(Lincoln and Boxshall, 1987)
Because Tarantulas do not change appearance or lifestyle during their postembryonic development as is the case with many insects, it is difficult to to determine the precise instar beyond the first two or three.
The standard to use here would be the one of M.F Downes laid down in 1987.
This states, that the female lays an egg. If the egg is fertilized, and develops, it sheds the chorion(shell in layman's terms) This is considered as hatching. Because the chorion is not manufactured by the embryo, it is not considered as the baby spider's skin.
Therefore this cannot be considered as eccdysis, and the cast of chorion not an exuvium(molt).
After this, the spider is known as post-embryo.(eggs with legs) The spider is using the last nutrients from the egg, can move it's appendages, but not move around. As this was not a true molt, the term instar is not used here.
Once the spider molts then, the nutrients are depleted and a proper exoskeleton formed, the following molt is considered a true molt, and because of the fact that it is the first true molt with true exoskeleton, the spider is now in its 1st instar.
Baby and spiderling are not reserved for particular stages in the development, but is used by as hobbyists to describe the spider.
Some species only start to crawl about in the 2nd instar, and actively feed on siblings. They start to take the appearance of a fully functional tarantula at about the 3rd or 4th instar.
Beyond that to ultimate molt is a rather grey area at present and more research is required, with well documented processes and results.
Ultimate molt refers to the male reaching sexual maturity, where the tibial apophysis become visible, his legs seems longer and the pedipalps develops into emboli. (This looks like boxing gloves. This is the sexual organs that introduces the sperm to the female.)
I hope this sheds some light and answers your question Dimitri.
SN²itch - Say NO to irresponsible Tarantula crossbreeding & Hybrids
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