Fiction & Facts
Did you know that: bird spiders already lived in the time of the dinosaurs (Jurassic: 180 – 135 million years ago).
Did you know that: 40.000 different kinds of spiders exist and only 850 species of bird spiders are known.
Did you know that: in one year spiders consume as many insects as the whole weight (in kilogram) of the population of England and Wales (W.S. Bristowe – arachnologist).
The name "bird spider" comes from the fact that some bird spiders feed on small birds. The first explorers in Latin America discovered a spider eating a small bird (Avicularia avicularia = bird–eating spider). Another reason to use this name could be that some tree spiders allow themselves to drop to the ground when there is danger and then spread their legs that are covered with hair, and then glide like a little bird from branch to branch.
Spiders are not insects. Insects have 6 legs, spiders have 8. A lot of insects can fly, spiders can never fly. The body of an insect consists of three parts, the body of a spider of two. Spiders possess 6 to 8 eyes; insects only have one pair of eyes. Spiders have an open blood circulation system and a primitive heart on the back.
spider does not have a skeleton like a human being. The spider body is totally or partially covered with an external, hardened skeleton made of chitin. This is an armature for the protection of the inside of the spider. The chitin–skeleton provides strength and a place to attach the muscles. It also protects spiders from dehydration.
The size of bird spiders can range from 3 cm (a Spanish variety) to the biggest bird spider (the Theraphosa blondi) with a span of 25–30 cm at the most.
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Female bird spiders can become as much as 25–30 years old. Males only become 4 to 7 years old. Usually they do not live to be that age, because after mating the female sometimes tries to kill the male for an easy meal.
There are also bird spiders that brush their hair from their abdomen, the bombing spiders (mainly Brachypelma – species). These are bird spiders that brush their hair with their hind legs (when they feel threatened) from their abdomen towards the attacker. The hair then floats through the air and irritates the airways and the skin. What remains is a bare spot.
Bird spiders live in all tropical and subtropical areas.
When a spider loses a leg, this lost leg will grow again bit–by–bit. After every moulting the leg will grow a little bit: regeneration (this takes about 2 or 3 moults). When a bird spider moults, it loses its skin.
In English, bird spiders from the New World are called tarantulas. African species are called baboon spiders. This creates a lot of confusion. The real tarantula is a wolf spider that lives in Southern Europe and is therefore not a bird spider! The wolf spider and the bird spider are not related. Sometimes there is also confusion with the american black widow spider or australian black widow, but this is a small orb–web spider and nowhere near resembles a bird spider.
Mankind is the biggest threat to a bird spider. Different species of bird spiders will be threatened with extinction because of the disappearance of natural biotopes, such as the forested savannah and the tropical rain forest. Also by the subdivision of the habitat and large–scale timber cut, environmental pollution, climatic change and illegal practices in wild hunt. Thanks to Wim Kuijs, Flip Klatter and Boris.
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