Book Review: Tarantulas by Joanne Randolph, in Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! Series Title #5

by DerdriuMarriner

Tarantulas is Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! series title #5. Joanne Randolph presents facts on the tarantula spider's bio-geography, life cycle, and natural history.

Tarantulas like their sunny homelands dark side up

Tarantulas also are called baboon spiders because of body coloration and size in Africa, bird-eating for food sources in South America, and whistling spiders through courtship sounds in Australia. They belong to the Arachnida invertebrate order -- whose name originates in the Greek ἀράχνη (arákhnē, “spider”) -- of mites, scorpions, spiders, and ticks. They claim about 1,000 of the world's 35,000+ known spider species and about 30 of the 3,500+ in the United States of America. They do not live natively in Planet Earth's coldest and driest regions or in Europe. Collectors, locals, researchers, tourists, traders, and visitors encounter tarantulas in such habitats as:
• lower elevations;
• temperate deserts and woodlands;
• tropical forests and savannas; and
• warmer climates.

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website: http://www.rosenpublishing.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40

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General distribution of tarantulas

Theraphosidae habitat distribution, drawn after Platnick: World Spider Catalog 7.0.
Theraphosidae habitat distribution, drawn after Platnick: World Spider Catalog 7.0.

Tarantulas molt belly up, with legs flailing upward

 

Scientists give tarantulas the description incomplete metamorphosis since spiderlings resemble undersized adults. Spiderlings hatch from eggs laid within silken sacs in ground burrows or tree cavities. The progression through life cycles and natural histories is aided by: 

  • exposure to sunlight when mothers air eggs and newborns outside; 
  • growth through 30+ molts -- until 3 to 4 or 7 to 8 years after birth -- when tarantulas lie on their backs instead of the usual mid-air dangled web; and 
  • stabilization at mature body lengths of 1 to 5 inches (2.5 to 12.7 centimeters), with leg-spans 10 to 12 inches (25.4 to 30.48 centimeters) long for the world's biggest spiders, South American tropical rain forest goliath tarantulas (Theraphosa leblondi). 

 

When predator becomes prey: Tarantula skewered on Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) spike by loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) ~

New World native passerine birds, Loggerhead Shrikes turn the table on prey, including tarantulas, by impaling them on sharp points such as barbed wire, spikes, or thorns.
photo by Brad Sutton/National Park Service (NPS)
photo by Brad Sutton/National Park Service (NPS)

Tarantulas nab prey through barbed-hair, poison, power-jaws, squirt-guns

 

Amateurs, newbies, and specialists know tarantulas by: 

  • black-, blue-, brown-, purple-haired, large abdomens and cephalothoraxes (merged heads and thoraxes); 
  • eight close-spaced, poor-visioned, small-sized eyes; and 
  • four sets of seven-segmented, stocky legs with hairy-bottomed, two-clawed tips. 

They link tarantula bio-geographical sustainability to: 

  • controlling populations of such prey as birds, frogs, insects, lizards, millipedes, rattlesnakes, spiders, toads, and woodlice; 
  • hunting, not web-trapping, with all-body hairs and leg-attached slit sense organ receptors and special-haired tricobothria respectively detecting vibrations, aeration, and stress; 
  • releasing barb-tipped abdominal hairs and stink bombs into predatory eyes; and 
  • using powerful jaws to crush prey and poison predators fatally in Africa and South America and temporarily elsewhere.

Females may survive 20 years whereas males perish after mating. 

 

Unlike Old World species, New World tarantula species have evolved irritating barbed hairs, known as urticating bristles, on opisthosoma for defense:

Opisthosoma is the posterior body part, often likened to an abdomen, but distinctive in arthropods for its inclusion of respiratory organs (book lungs or book gills) and the heart.
adult female Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) with bald patch on opisthosoma from kicking off urticating bristles
adult female Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) with bald patch on opisthosoma from kicking off urticating bristles

Tarantulas offer culturally enriching educational entertainment in books

 

The PowerKids Press-released Tarantulas numbers as title #5 in The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. of New York’s Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! series, which includes:

  • #1 Black Widow Spiders;
  • #2 Crab Spiders;
  • #3 Jumping Spiders;
  • #4 Orb-Weaver Spiders; and
  • #6 Wolf Spiders.

The info-science publication offers third- to seventh-graders aged 8 to 12 years culturally enriching and educationally entertaining insights into tarantula bio-geographies, life cycles, and natural histories through 24 pages containing beautifully clear photographs and divided into:

  • ten chapters;
  • index; and
  • glossary

Tarantulas provides memorable illustrative and textual information thanks to timely release in 2014 and timeless relevance through:

  • book designer Andrew Povolny;
  • editors Norman D. Graubart and Jennifer Way; 
  • photo researcher Katie Stryker; and 
  • writer Joanne Randolph.

 

Brazilian Giant Whiteknee Tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata): New World tarantula; fast-growing mature legspan of 8.5 inches (21.5 centimeters) for females ~

Native to forests of Brazil, A. geniculata are prized as pets!
Macro of Brazilian Whiteknee Tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata)
Macro of Brazilian Whiteknee Tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata)

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Tarantulas meet their match in nature: Female tarantula hawk or spider wasp (Pepsis or Hemipepsis) dragging paralyzed Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula (Brachypelma smithi)

Bajos del Toro, Alajuela province, north central Costa Rica
Bajos del Toro, Alajuela province, north central Costa Rica

Sources Consulted

 

Randolph, Joanne. 2014. Tarantulas. PowerKids Press: Nightmare Creatures: Spiders! Series Title #5. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 

 

Fried tarantulas have become a delicacy in Cambodia, centered in Skuon, known touristically as Spider Village, in Kampong Cham Province, southeastern Cambodia.

Fried tarantula in Cambodian restaurant
Fried tarantula in Cambodian restaurant
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Tarantulas by Joanne Randolph

Nightmare Creatures - Spiders!
Tarantulas (Nightmare Creatures-Spiders!)

Tarantula - Bird Eating Spider: poster available via AllPosters

illustration by Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert (September 18, 1865 – February 11, 1926)
Tarantula - Bird Eating Spider

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/11/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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