Tarantula Essay

Tarantula Essay

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Spiders
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The Arthropods, a term for invertebrate animals, such as crustaceans, millipedes and centipedes, insects, and arachnids, constitute the largest phylum in the animal kingdom with more than 900,000 known species found in almost all habitats. Out of this number there are over 30,000 recognised species of spiders throughout the world and 800 of them are classified as true tarantulas. Some arachnologists put the estimated number of tarantulas inhabiting our planet closer to 7000, believing that many are still to be
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discovered. Tarantulas belong to the family Theraphosidae of which species vary enormously.
 The smallest known species of Tarantula is Aphonopelma mojaviensis, the leg span of adults of both sexes are less than 5/8 inch (1.6 Cm). The biggest spider in the world is the Goliath Tarantula (Theraphosa blondi), which is found in the Amazon rain forest in northern South America. The leg span of a male can be as much as 12 inches. This spider is powerful enough to catch
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and eat frogs, toads, lizards, mice and even small snakes, in fact it is known to occasionally eat the extremely venomous and highly feared Fer-de-lance snake! Even though there is a vast diversity in species of tarantula, the anatomy and skeletal structure of these spiders is essentially the same. They are invertebrates, meaning they have no internal skeleton and instead posses an external skeletal structure, the exoskeleton.
The exoskeleton or cuticle is made mostly of chitin, a carbohydrate polysaccharide somewhat
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like plastic in its physical properties. This exoskeleton provides the strong, lightweight and waterproof shell required by these animals to prevent them desiccating and to support their internal organs and systems. Everything one sees when one looks at a tarantula is cuticle. The cuticle is made up of several layers with different properties. The Inner layer is made out of epidermis which is separate from the cuticle. The cells of this inner layer are alive, secreting the chitin that makes
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up the outer shell. The layer in the middle is made up of soft and flexible chitin, providing the elasticity, which allows the tarantula to absorb small impacts. The chitin in the outermost layer has been stiffened and hardened trough the addition of other chemicals, and this forms a hard, protective, and waterproof shell.
        All spiders have two main body divisions. The front section called cephalothorax, and the rear section called the abdomen. These two body segments are joined by
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a narrow waist section called the pedicel. The underside of the cephalothorax is furnished with a central shield (sternum) surrounded by the coxae of the pedipalps and legs. The sternum possesses three pairs of bald spots known as stigilla, which are sites of internal muscle attachment. Connected to the front of the sternum is a smaller plate called the labium, which covers the mouthparts. The labium is covered with small, sclerotised (hardened) cuspules.
Although the tarantula has eight little
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eyes on the eyepod, a small oval raised area near the front of the cephalothorax, most tarantulas are only able to see shadows. The exceptions are the arboreal tarantulas. It is believed that they have better eyesight enabling them to distinguish between shapes.
Spiders possess 16 appendages in total. Four pairs of walking legs, one pair of leg like appendages, the pedipalps, mainly used for food handling and manipulation of soil during retreat construction, a pair of mouthparts to which
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the fangs are attached (the chelicerae), and 2 pairs of spinnerets. The main appendages, eight walking legs, two food-handling appendages and the mouthparts are all attached to the cephalothorax. The other four appendages, the spinnerets are attached to the abdomen. The eight walking legs of these spiders consist of five sections called the femur, patella, tibia, metatarsus and tarsus respectively from the body outwards. Where flexibility is needed to allow for movement, as example the leg joints or the abdomen,
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the hardened outer shell is either very thin, or completely missing.
Internally a series of muscles are attached to the inside of the exoskeleton. The way these muscles are attached to the appendages enables the tarantula to pull the limbs inwards, but this muscle arrangement makes it impossible for the tarantula to move the limbs outwards by muscle power. To do that, the tarantula utilizes hydraulic pressure. It pumps blood to the limbs it wants to move, and the increase
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in pressure forces the appendage to move outwards. To move the appendage back inwards it reduces the blood pressure, and the muscles pull the limb back.
The first part of the digestive track and the tarantula brain, ganglion, is inside the cephalothorax. All other vital organs are inside the abdomen. These are the rest of the digestive track, the heart, which is a muscular tube running the length of the top of the abdomen, the book lungs, the silk producing
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organs, and the reproductive organs.
The hairs, more accurately called bristles, that one is able to see all over the tarantula are made from chitin, the same material as the exoskeleton. These hairs or bristles are technically called setae and are projections of the exoskeleton. They do not grow out of follicles like the hair found on mammals, and they serve a completely different purpose. In general tarantulas rely on touch, taste, and smell to perceive the world they live
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in. This information is provided by the different types of setae they posses all over their body. Some of these bristles are sensitive to chemicals, acting as taste organs ;others are sensitive to the slightest change in air pressure, enabling them to detect the slightest movements around them. Tarantulas are able to detect the movement of a cricket, work out the direction and the size of the prey item from a considerable distance away with the help of these bristles.
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They also have organs, the equivalent to the human nose, on their feet enabling them to perceive chemicals and humidity.
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