Classification and Range
Tarantulas belong in the class of arthropods, Arachnida. They are further classified into the order Araneae, and then into the family Theraphosidae. There are over 800 species of tarantula worldwide, found on every continent except Antarctica.
There are several subspecies of rose tarantulas, yet Chilean rose tarantulas are found exclusively in Chile, South America.
Chilean rose tarantulas were thought to be a burrowing species, but current observations indicate that they may hide out or make retreats above ground and hunt at night. Tarantulas generally live in burrows or trees.
Body: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) or longer.
Leg span: up to 5.75 inches (14.6 cm)
Weight: varies; females are larger and heavier than males.
Not researched in the wild. It is estimated that males up to 6 years; females up to 20 years. For tarantulas in general, the life span is species dependent. In captivity, males up to 3.5 years; females, more than 20 years.
In the wild: Insects and other arthropods. Occasionally, small animals.
At the zoo: One cricket per week
Mating can occur anytime of the year, and is highly dependent on the species or its environmental conditions. Burrowing species of tarantulas do not have good vision, so mating proceeds by sense of touch, smell and vibration. As a prospective male carefully approaches, the female rears back on her hind legs. The male rubs her with his pedipalps on the sternum to calm her down. As he pushes her upright, he uses his first set of legs to hook onto her fangs to prevent her from attacking him. The male then deposits sperm from each pedipalp. After detaching, he quickly backs away. Contrary to a popular myth, females rarely kill the male after mating; most male tarantulas live for another one to two years after mating.
Before laying her eggs, the female makes a silk egg capsule to protect them from predators and fluctuating environmental conditions. Any amount from 100 to over 500 eggs are laid in the egg sac, depending on the vitality of the female. Some species of tarantulas leave the egg capsule in their burrow, however other species of tarantula carry the eggs with them. Young spiderling tarantulas hatch about six weeks later, sometimes incubation can take longer. Although the egg sac is well guarded until the spiderlings hatch, the young are abandoned after hatching. Maturity for male tarantulas occurs in one to two years; they live for six to 18 months thereafter (in captivity). Female tarantulas take longer to mature, requiring three to 10 years to become an adult.
Hair do You do?
Hair covers the entire body of tarantulas; it is their most important means of sensory input, and serves several functions. Some hairs contain temperature or smell receptors. Other hairs can detect airborne vibration. Hairs in certain areas, mostly on the abdomen, can act as an itchy irritant to potential predators. At the end of each leg, there are two hidden tarsal claws, which yield great maneuverability for the burrowing tarantulas. For arboreal tarantulas, these claws provide stability in walking and allow the tarantula to hang on to vertical surfaces. Yet, the velvety pads of hair behind these claws are far more important, since they cushion the tarantula while it walks.
Location at the Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo has many species of tarantulas, including the Chilean rose, Mexican redkneed, pinktoed and curlyhaired. They are located at Woodland Park Zoo’s Bug World but are not currently on view. You’ll go "buggy" while viewing exciting seasonal displays that take you on a journey to different bioclimatic zones around the world. You may come face-to-face with recycling cockroaches, assassin bugs, web-spinning spiders or scuba diving beetles, to name only a few. The only way you’ll find out which bugs you’ll encounter is by visiting Bug World. Don’t miss it!
The greatest threat to the tarantula’s existence is habitat destruction. A tarantula’s habitat can be affected by excessive forestry, agricultural/residential/commercial development or drainage of wetlands. Although several species of spiders are considered threatened or close to extinction, little is known about the future of tarantulas. It is quite possible that some tarantula species have yet to be discovered. Another threat to the existence of tarantulas is the rapidly expanding market for tarantulas as pets. There are few conservation measures for the preservation of tarantulas. However, there are many restrictions on the importation of tarantulas into the United States.
For humans, tarantulas pose little threat, and are an invaluable aid in destroying harmful, crop-eating insects. To conserve habitat for tarantulas and other spiders, reduce your use of pesticides, and work to preserve vegetation in your neighborhood and in tropical regions.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy wild animals as pets or animal products made from wild-caught animals.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can support conservation efforts at the zoo. Discover more about spiders by contacting the American Tarantula Society on the Internet at www.concentric.net/~DmaMarrtin/ats; or call 505-748-2483.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Foelix, Rainer. 1996. The Biology of Spiders. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 330 p.
Marshall, S.D. 1996. Tarantulas and Other Arachnids. Barron’s, Hauppauge, NY. 104 p.
Levi, H.W. and L.R. Levi. 1990. Spiders and Their Kin. Golden Press, New York, NY. 160 p.
Preston-Mafham, R. 1991. The Book of Spiders and Scorpions. Crescent Books, New York, NY. 144 p.