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If you find arachnids of all kinds and spiders in particular fascinating, you might have considered the possibility of owning a tarantula as a pet. Tarantulas some of the world’s largest spiders, and have a mainly undeservedly fearful reputation as the stuff of nightmares and horror movies. Tarantulas are not generally aggressive, cannot kill you with a bite, and are (for the main part and considering the most popular pet breeds of tarantula) highly unlikely to bite you in the first place. These common misconceptions only scratch the surface of what is true about spiders versus what many people perceive to be true, and a lot of people’s fear of spiders comes from the unknown aspect of things!
Whether you consider yourself to be a spider expert or are just starting to learn about arachnids with a view to becoming a future tarantula keeper, read on to discover eight true facts about spiders and increase your knowledge!
Spiders cannot digest solid foods, and would be unable to eat the food they hunt or that is given to them (such as crickets and pinkie mice for pet tarantulas) in the form that it is presented. The underside of the stomach of the spider produces a digestive enzyme, which the spider in question then exudes onto the body of its prey. After the digestive enzyme has broken down the body of the prey, the spider hoovers up the resultant nutritious liquid and digestive enzyme, which is then processed by the body as food.
Just one spider family (Uloboridae) does not possess venom glands; all other spiders in the world, without exception, produce venom. This includes the tiny money spider and the larger but still commonly seen domestic-dwelling spiders you may have spotted in your house or garden! The potency of the venom varies in case to case, from the serious and dangerous venom of the Brown Recluse spider (which fortunately does not live in the UK) down to the weakest, most minor venom that can only affect the very smallest of prey animals.
Spiders are predatory carnivores, and actively hunt for and trap their prey, which can be interesting if rather gruesome to watch for the tarantula owner! Spiders that belong to the Aranaea order compose the largest group of carnivores on earth by order, and spiders eat a variety of different prey dependent on their size, from tiny flies right up to snakes, mice, rats and birds.
All types of spiders produce the silk that you will most probably have seen as part of webs, but silk is not only used for making webs and some spiders do not make webs at all! Silk can also be used for snaring prey, lining burrows, protecting their eggs, for shelter, and as part of the mating ritual.
While all spiders produce silk, not all spiders dwell in webs or use their webs to trap their potential prey. Some spiders simply catch their meals by either lying in wait and pouncing, or by actively chasing after their prey! The jumping spider has acute eyesight, and simply hides itself until viable prey is nearby before attacking it. Wolf spiders actively hunt their prey, pursuing them while remaining discreet and ultimately overtaking the unlucky life form in question before attacking!
It is relatively well known that the Black Widow spider is liable to eat their partner after mating, but life is rather unfair for male spiders regardless of species! Male spiders are commonly eaten by females, and not only as part of the mating process. The elaborate courtship rituals that male spiders undertake when they are ready to reproduce are partially undertaken to convince the female that they are there for a date rather than a meal, and they need to make a swift retreat after mating to avoid ending up on the menu!
As well as using their muscle structures to ambulate and move themselves, spiders rely upon blood pressure to move their long legs. This is particularly true for jumping spiders, which jump by means of increasing the blood pressure to their legs until the legs flip outwards and propel them into the air!
Spiders lay their eggs onto a layer of silk, and then cover them in more silk and keep producing additional layers until the egg sac has been created. The amount of silk that makes up the egg sac varies between species, with spiders that spin webs making thick and large egg sacs, and ground dwelling spiders producing thinner casings.
Some species of spider can produce silk that mimics the substrate onto which it is lain, effectively disguising and camouflaging their eggs against danger and predators.
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