During the fall season, thousands of male tarantulas embark on a journey to hunt for females. The mass migration can be seen across roads in several states such as Colorado and New Mexico, with males traveling as far as 50 miles to find a mate. In Oklahoma, brown tarantulas migrate through La Junta, Colorado around September and can be seen crossing Highway 109.
Meanwhile, females just wait around their burrows as suitors appear. They used their legs to send vibrations to attract interested males. She may kill the suitors she rejects or even the one she chooses to mate with. After 10 seconds of mating, the male may die of exhaustion after evading the female fangs. If the male is lucky, he will survive for a few more years.
Males typically live up to a decade or 12 years while females live twice as long. According to Margie Klein, a writer at Desert USA: Discover Southern Nevada, females can produce between 500 to 1,000 young at each mating.
Finding a Suitable Mate
Since tarantulas have poor eyesight, the setae or hairlike structures on their legs help them sense danger, prey, or mates. The setae are also sensitive enough to sense the wind and the chemical signatures of their surroundings.
According to researchers from the Autonomous University of Madrid, tarantulas have a built-in "compass." Its four eyes can measure the angle of polarized light and calculate the distance it has traveled. Joaquin Ortega Escobar said that the spiders need "an odometer that registers the route, its location with respect to the finish point, which would be the burrow."
In a recent study, researchers from Yale-NUS College and Carnegie Mellon University determined that tarantulas can perceive color despite being nocturnal creatures. Previously thought to be color blind, there may be a reason that their setae may have vivid colors such as green or blue.
Behavioral observations revealed that the blue traits were associated with attracting potential mates. On the other hand, green traits were associated with tarantulas that are tree-dwelling species and used camouflage to confuse predators or prey. Tarantula eyes were also discovered to have light-sensitive proteins called opsins.
There are nearly 800 tarantula species around the world, with 50 species found in North America. The venom of American tarantulas are not toxic to humans and hurt less than a bee sting. An adverse reaction may occur, however, if a person is allergic to tarantula venom.
Tarantulas have become popular house pets because they are easy to handle, do not take up a lot of space, and are typically not aggressive. However, the spiders are unique and are commonly smuggled into the United States to be sold as pets.
In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service caught 250 baby tarantulas smuggled into Washington state. Fortunately, some of the spiders were transferred to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
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