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The Emperor's New Clothes

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2018   |   POSTED BY MICAH GARTMAN

 
     
 

Sydney Sue molted!!!

It finally happened on Sunday, October 28, 2018, at 5:06 p.m—2 years and 24 days since his previous molt.

We had a feeling he was in pre-molt a couple of weeks beforehand. The weather had been gorgeous so we opened the window in his room. This is Sydney Sue's favorite time of year and the cool breeze always lures him out of his cave for some napping and hole digging. But he was nowhere to be found. I peeked into his cave and he was curled up in a ball. He was definitely not feeling good.

When I checked on him that Sunday afternoon, he had put up silk strand "trip wires" at the entrances of his cave and was laying on his back in the molting position. Throughout the night, he slowly wiggled out of his old exoskeleton. By 12:30 Monday morning, he had completely shed his skin and was taking a much-needed rest.

This video shows a time lapse of a Brachypelma vagans—the Mexican Redrump tarantula—molting:

 

 

 

     

 

 

     
 

A tarantula's new skin is very soft for about a week after molting. To ensure that he isn't injured while his shell hardens, Sydney Sue spent two weeks in his cave stretching his legs and regaining his strength. I figured he was getting hungry since it had been more than a month since he last ate. And boy was I right! I cooked up a batch of tasty crickets and grabbed a particularly plump one from the plastic bag. Before I could release the tasty cricket into his house, he jumped up and grabbed it out of the tongs!!!

He has also become a night owl since he molted. I think he's still getting used to his new body and doesn't feel safe outside his cave in the daylight. He recently ventured outside his cave for a few minutes and I was able to snap a couple of photos:

 

 

 

     
   
     
   
     
 

Sydney Sue definitely got bigger after molting, but not too much bigger. I assumed that he'd grow to be as big as a horse, but he's still "fun size." His head is definitely larger and his legs are longer. His fuzzy butt is teeny tiny though. We'll have to fatten him up with lots of tasty crickets!

Here are photos of his exuvia. In this photo, the large holes you see are the opening of the coxa and are where his muscles come out of his legs and attach to the top of his head. The six tiny dots next to the coxa are called the stigllium. No one knows what function they serve, but scientists believe they help regulate hydraulic pressure in the tarantula's head. You can also see his bristles and super awesome stripes:

 
     
   
  Click the image to see a larger version.  
     
 

In this photo, you can see Sydney Sue's shiny black fangs. The large round object at the top of the picture is his head. If you look closely, you can see a cluster of white dots. Those are his old eye sockets! You can also see that I accidentally broke off one of his feet. The exuvia is very delicate.

 
     
   
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In this photo it looks like Sydney Sue is doing The Dab:

 
     
   
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We probably won't see much of Sydney Sue between now and spring. Tarantulas in the wild go dormant in the winter and bury themselves deep in their burrow to stay warm. Even though Sydney Sue lives a life of luxury in a climate-controlled house, he's still hard-wired to hibernate when it gets cold. And a cold spider is a sleepy spider—even if it's 75° in his room.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, a safe winter and don't forget:

Be nice to spiders :)

 
     
 
 
     
 

Fren?

The ground in Texas gets awful hot in the summer, and a human's shade is always appreciated:

 
     
   
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Yes, tarantulas can swim.

Texas Parks and Wildlife posted this video on their Instagram feed of an Aphonopelma spp. doing the doggy paddle at Big Bend Ranch State Park:

 
     
   
  © Copyright 2018 texasparkswildlife. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 
 
     
 

The illegal market for tarantulas is hairy business

National Geographic recently published an article describing the poaching and illegal trading of endangered tarantulas across the globe. Many people view tarantulas as "pests" or "monsters," but they play a vital role within the areas they live. Removing a predator (or prey) from an ecosystem does an amazing amount of damage—to the animals and the environment.

Carol Fukushima, a researcher at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, made this observation:

 
     
 

 

 

“It’s sad to say, but we don’t know the ecology of these animals,” Fukushima says. “We don’t know how many of these animals are found in nature, the range of these animals.”

According to Sergio Henriques, of the more than 900 tarantula species, the IUCN has assessed the conservation status of just 15. That means no one has any clue how more than 99 percent of tarantula species are holding up in the wild.

 
     
 

Imagine not knowing the global health of 99 percent of birds, whales or tigers! Sadly, creepy crawlers just don't get the same press coverage as cute, cuddly critters like pandas and orangutans.

 
     
   
  © Copyright 2018 Juan Pablo Ampudia. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 
 
     
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