|Geographical Range||Eastern Brazil (in South America)|
|Habitat||Tropical rain forests|
|Scientific Name||Lasiodora parahybana|
|Conservation Status||Not listed by IUCN|
With a leg-span of up to 10 inches, the Brazilian salmon pink birdeater is one of the largest tarantulas in the world. And this spider gets big fast: it can grow up to a diameter of six inches in the first year of life!
Pretty in Pink
Like their name implies, Brazilian salmon pink birdeaters are (partially) pink, with long salmon-colored hairs sticking out from their legs, abdomens and mouthparts. Except for the pink patches, these tarantulas are mostly dark brown.
Coloring may be the best way to identify these tarantulas, but Brazilian salmon pink birdeaters also have a distinctive shape: they are bulky, with a fairly large body in relation to leg length.
What's for Dinner?
From their name, you might think these tarantulas eat birds and nothing else. But that's not the case! Though they do snack on the occasional small bird, the bulk of their diet consists of various insects. They round out the menu with a few lizards, frogs and mice.
Unlike many other spiders, tarantulas don't spin webs to catch their prey (though they do produce silk). Instead, they lie in wait until an unsuspecting victim wanders by and then -- pounce! -- they grab it. They immediately inject their victim with venom in order to subdue it.
Once the victim is subdued, the process of eating begins -- and it's not a pretty sight! The tarantulas pass digestive fluid out of the mouth and onto the prey. This results in partially digested prey (yum!), which the tarantulas suck up through their mouth.
Sometimes tarantulas catch a prey animal before they're ready to eat it. In that case, the spiders use their silk for wrapping the unlucky victim, saving it for a later date.
Like all spiders, tarantulas have eight tiny eyes clustered together. With all these peepers, you might think tarantulas have great eyesight. But that's not true. They can't see very far -- only a few inches. Their eyes serve mostly to detect the difference between light and dark.
So if tarantulas can't see very well, how do they find their prey? They probably depend a lot on their excellent sense of touch. They have a pair of feelers (called pedipalps) attached to the head. These organs are sensitive to touch, as well as to chemical cues.
Tarantulas have another means of staying in touch with their surroundings: their body is covered with fine hairs that are super-sensitive. How sensitive? They can detect the air disturbance caused by an insect moving nearby!
The Making of Spiderlings
When a male tarantula reaches adulthood, he spins a small patch of silk. He deposits sperm on the silk, and then sucks up the fluid into the tips of his pedipalps. He's now ready to breed.
Usually, when a male approaches a female to mate, she rears up and opens her fangs as if threatened. He reaches up and secures her fangs with the hooks on his front legs, then inserts his sperm-loaded pedipalps into her genital openings on the underside of her abdomen.
Some three months later, the female spins a thick carpet of silk on which to lay her eggs (usually about 500, but sometimes as many as 2,000 for Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeaters!). She then gathers the silk around the eggs, forming an egg sac. She'll guard this for several weeks until the spiderlings hatch.
Some tarantulas that live in forests are arboreal (living in the trees) while others are terrestrial (living on the ground). Brazilian salmon pink birdeaters are ground dwellers. During the day they can usually be found in burrows (which they make themselves) or natural hiding places on the forest floor. At night they come out to hunt or find mates.
Saved by a Hair
Tarantulas may encounter many potential enemies. Though these spiders are usually shy, they will become aggressive if threatened. What's their first line of defense? Hair! Some tarantulas release hairs upon contact, while others flick hairs from their abdomen using a hind leg. These hairs (called urticating hairs) are irritating -- especially if they land in the eyes or the sensitive nasal membranes of potential predators!
If stinging hairs aren't enough to discourage enemies, tarantulas move to Plan B: they bite!
- Like all spiders, tarantulas have an exoskeleton, a rigid casing protecting their internal organs. As tarantulas grow, they undergo a series of molts, shedding their old exoskeleton and gaining a larger one each time.
- There are few reports of people being bitten by tarantulas, and there are no known cases of a person dying from a tarantula bite. But their bites are definitely painful, so they should always be handled with care!