The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Spring Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 1


The Tarantula
A Report, by Tessa Libby

INTRODUCTION

I chose the tarantula, because I thought it would be a very interesting animal to learn about. When I started my report I only knew that they were big spiders. I didn't even know that they are furry. They are very interesting to learn about especially when you know nothing about them. The tarantula is very interesting. In my report I will tell you all that I know about tarantulas. I will tell you about their habitat, what they eat, and how they eat .I hope you enjoy my report.

HABITAT

Tarantulas live in burrows. They stay underground in day time, and come out at night. They prefer dry habitats. They live in temperate grassland, chaparral, and deserts. They like desert soil. They only live in southern and central California and other parts of the world.

DESCRIPTION

The tarantula's body is very furry and they can be grey, black or dark brown. Their abdomen is brownish black. Tarantulas have two fangs [chelicerae] with teeth on their large bases. A tarantula's body has two main parts. The parts are the prospoma and the abdomen. A narrow waists conects the prospoma and the abdomen. The waist is called the pedicel. The prospoma is in the front like the head. All the legs are connected to it. Their eyes and fangs are also. All tarantulas are furry. The male is about two to two and-a-half inches big. The female is about two to two-and three-quarters of an inch big. The female's leg span is about four inches. Iridescent hair forms a pad below the tip of each leg.

FOOD and PREY

Tarantulas eat many insects. They can also eat tadpoles or even birds. They do not eat food that other animals catch. They also eat butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, small spiders, cockroaches, beetles, small frogs, toads, and mice. They eat lizards too.

ENEMIES and PROTECTION

The Tarantula Hawk is the tarantula's enemy. Another name for the Tarantula Hawk is the Pepsis Wasp. Other enemies of the tarantula are owls, hawks, coyotes, weasels, snakes, lizards, and large scorpions. The tarantula may bite it's enemy. Sometimes the enemy is paralyzed by the bite and then the spider has a chance to escape.

REPRODUCTION and RAISING YOUNG

Baby tarantulas are called spiderlings. Spiderlings hatch from eggs. When a female tarantula is ready to lay eggs, she makes a bag out of silk. The bag is called an egg sac. It looks like a golf ball made out of silk. The tarantula lays as many as seven hundred eggs inside the egg sac and she stays near her eggs. The female tarantula may stop eating until the spiderlings have hatched. A tarantula's eggs hatch three to sixteen weeks after they are laid. The newly hatched spiderlings look nothing like their mother or father. They look like tiny white eggs with legs. After hatching, each spiderling digs its own burrow where they grow inside. Tarantula spiderlings molt for the first time while they are still inside their egg sac. They molt again when they are about a week old. Baby tarantulas start hunting for food after their second molt. Growing up takes about two to twelve years for a tarantula.

At the time of mating, the male inserts palpal tips into two openings in the female, and fills her sperm receptacles. The sperm are stored until the eggs are ready to be fertilized and laid. Eggs are enclosed in a silken sac and hung from a web or a solid object. The male tries to maintain contact with the female. If the female moves away, the male aggressively pursues his desired mate. Eggs are concealed in some natural cavity. All spiderlings resemble females at first. After the last molt, the male emerges with distinctive pedipalps and more slender and relatively larger legs. Females continue to molt after reaching maturity and may live to be twenty years old.

INTERESTING FACTS

On the abdomen there are hairs with hooks on them. The hairs catch insects, and the tarantula rubs the insect off. If you have a pet tarantula you should wear gloves when you hold it. It can make you get a big rash if you don't wear gloves.

They have strange behavior. They are sluggish in movement and they can be trained as pets. So far the best spider pet in the world is a tarantula. Tarantulas hide during the day in cracks of trees, under logs, stones or debris and they come out at night to hunt for their prey. There are also more than thirty species of tarantulas in the United States. As a matter of a fact, I see tarantulas at my cabin. Usually they are crossing roads. I see them in early October in the fall. Many people are afraid of them but I am not.

CONCLUSION

I learned a lot from my report, and I hope you did too. I learned about the tarantula's habitat and about how and what it eats. I also found a lot of interesting facts , and stuff about reproduction and raising young. Do you think that I had the most information on reproduction and raising young? Well I do, and that was the topic I learned most about. I learned a lot about the tarantula. I hope you did too, and I hope you enjoyed my report.

Tessa Libby is an avid hiker, backpacker, and naturalist who has been observing tarantulas and other creatures in the Ventana since she was a baby. When not in school with her fourth grade classmates at the Gateway School in Santa Cruz, she can most often be found turning over stones at her father Jon's cabin at The Indians.

Text, photos and original artwork are copyright ©1999 by the author.


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