Tuesday, August 23, 2011

North American Tarantulas

Did you know that there are over 850 species of Tarantula, spread across a dozen subfamilies and nearly 100 different genera. That is a lot of spiders! Because covering hundreds of spiders that like around the world is a pretty daunting task, today we’ll just learn about those critters that reside in the genus Aphonopelma, the North American Tarantulas.

Narrowing down to one genus still leaves up with around 90 species, but many of those are poorly studied and we know little about them. There are also many problems with the taxonomy and what we know about specific species identification and distribution. What we do know is that just about every species of Tarantula in North America belongs in this grouping, along with many from Central America. There are about four dozen in the United States alone.

We also know that like the Tarantulas in Africa, South America, and other parts of the world, members of genus Aphonopelma do not spin webs. They actually hunt down their prey. This does not mean these spiders lack the ability to spin, however. They live in burrows and will often create trip-wires that alert them to the movement of prey around their home. The venom of these Tarantulas is poisonous, but causes little damage to humans. It is similar to being stung by a bee!  
Aphonopelma Tarantula
The Aphonopelma Tarantulas build their burrows in areas that correspond to their habitat. For example, the spiders of the American Southwest build their burrows in the foothills and desert basins. In order to reproduce, the male Tarantulas must first deposit sperm by rubbing his abdomen on a woven surface that he created. He then picks up the sperm with strange syringe like parts within small arm-like appendages called pedipalps. Once that is done, he lures a mate and then places the pedipalps into pouches in her abdomen. The female will then lay an egg sac which can contain upwards of 2,000 tiny spiders!

Aphonopelma Tarantulas are not threatened, though it is hard to say that for sure due to the little study and taxonomic uncertainties. Some species, like A. chalcodes, are kept as pets due to their docile nature and their ability to live as long as 20 years! 

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : North America, parts of Central America
Size : Body length up to 4in (10cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Arachnida -- Order : Araneae
Family : Theraphosidae -- Subfamily : Theraphosinae -- Genus : Aphonopelma

1 comment:

  1. I always thought tarantula venom was lethal! Something new to know I suppose.


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