After almost three months of relative inactivity and minimal eating, the tarantulas are again becoming active. The juvenile curly hair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) purchased last February, for whom gender was determined last August, emerged as a mature male yesterday afternoon.
Prior to the maturing (ultimate) molt, tarantulas of both genders look relatively similar. Mature males of most tarantula species undergo a radical transformation prior to their ultimate molt. He emerges from his former exoskeleton with a smaller abdomen and longer legs that bear prominent forward-pointing tibial hooks.
He’s now on verge of becoming a traveling, mating machine. His behaviors will change. His activity will increase significantly and his energies will be focused on finding females.
Sadly, this is the beginning of the end. His days are numbered. My students and I will be able to observe a number of new behaviors, such as the building of sperm webs, silken tents that are open at both ends. Sperm webs are built so the male can transfer his sperm to newly formed, boxing glovelike bulbs at the ends of his pedipalps. Upside down, under the sperm web, he will deposit a droplet of semen, which will be used to load the boxing glovelike structures at the end of each pedipalp.
Once his pedipalp boxing gloves are loaded with sperm, he will leave home and all of his energies will be focused on finding a female. After an extensive search and courtship, and if he is not eaten by her, the female will rear up and extend her fangs. The male locks her fangs into place with his newly developed tibial hooks. He then pushes her cephalothorax upward and alternately inserts his boxing glovelike pedipalp ends into her reproductive tract, transferring his sperm.
Though, there is a lot left for me to observe, my female curly hair tarantula is still immature. Should I try to procure a mature female? I don’t know. Timing is of the essence, and I’m completely inexperienced at this type of thing.
In spite of the fact that a lot of new, interesting new behaviors loom on the horizon, in the end it’s a bittersweet proposition at best. I certainly hate to lose one of my largest, most tractable, spiders…
Onward we go!