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Meet Sydney the Tarantula

TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2015   |   POSTED BY MICAH GARTMAN

 
     
 

Our new tarantula is named Sydney. We got her on December 6, 2014 when she was about a year old.

Here she is on her first day home after a bumpy car ride from the Pasadena Convention Center:

 
     
   
     
 

Sydney is a Grammostola pulchripes (pronounced Gram-OH-stole-uh pole-cruh-peas). In the tarantula collecting hobby, G. pulchripes is referred to as the Chaco Golden Knee tarantula.

"Chacos" are native to the northern-most portion of Argentina and Paraguay in an area known as the Chaco province. It is very similar in appearance and climate to the Texas Hill Country:

 
     
   
  © Copyright 2007 MFCK. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 

Because Argentina no longer allows these spiders to be exported, tarantula collectors have created breeding programs in the U.S. and Europe. Sydney was born (or, more accurately, hatched) in captivity in Spring, Texas in December 2013. She's technically a native Texan :)

Here is Sydney on January 11, 2015. She's still a baby in this photo, and is very fat from eating crickets:

 
     
   
  Artwork courtesy of Evelyn Anderson and Jerry Hajek  
     
 

Sydney is very docile and extremely shy. She's almost cat-like: she sleeps all day, plays all night and only likes to be touched when she wants to be touched (which is almost never). She even cleans herself like a cat!

Here is a video of a Grammostola rosea (the Chilean Rose tarantula) cleaning herself:

 
     
   
  © Copyright 2015 Luis Aros. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 

Sydney's gentle and calm demeanor is due in part to her ability to defend herself. She is covered in setae (pronounced see-tea). Setae look like hair, but function just like a cat's whiskers. Tarantulas from North and South America possess a special type of setae called urticating bristles (pronounced your-tick-ate-ing). These special setae are located on top of her abdomen. If she gets scared, she will rub her back legs on her abdomen and "kick" these setae at her attacker. These bristles have little hooks on the end of them and will stick to your skin. They will make you itch like crazy!!!

In these photos, you can see Sydney's setae:

 
     
   
     
   
     
 

This video shows a Brachypelma smithi (the Mexican Red Knee tarantula) "kicking hairs." Notice how she doesn't even try to bite :)

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!

 
     
   
  © Copyright 2010 Quees1. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 

Sydney eats live crickets. I buy them at PetSmart (they're 13¢ each). I feed the crickets organic apples before I give them to Sydney. By doing this, the crickets are full of nutritious fruit when Sydney eats them. Tarantulas need their fruits and veggies, too! She eats one cricket every week.

Several weeks ago, Sydney stopped eating. When tarantulas begin a fast, it's a sign that they are about to molt. In order for a tarantula to grow, they must shed their skin. This is called molting. On March 8, 2015, Sydney molted.

Here are photos of her old skin. You can see her legs, her jaws and even her eyes!

 
     
   
     
   
     
 

Since her molt, Sydney has been pretty elusive. Her new shell is still hardening, so she's rather sensitive.

This is the best photo I've been able to take of her since she molted:

 
     
   
     
 

She's gotten so big since she molted that she's outgrown her current "condo." Once she has adjusted to her new skin, we will transfer her to a larger container. I'll update with more photos when she moves in to her new home.

And, in case you're curious, this is what Sydney will look like when she's fully grown in about six years:

 
     
   
  © 2013 Copyright David Albaugh. All Rights Reserved.  
     
 
 
     
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