Mexican pink tarantulas, Brachypelma klaasi, are found in North and Central Americas. Brachypelma klaasi inhabits many habitat types including humid, arid, deciduous forest zones. It is found at elevations of 300 to 1,400 m above sea level. The known range of this species extends from Tepic, Nayarit in the north to Chamela, Jalisco in the South. This is mainly the southern Pacific coast of Mexico. The largest known population of B. klaasi can be found at the biological reserve at Chamela, Jalisco.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Brachypelma klaasi is sexually dimorphic, with females being larger and heavier than males. Female B. klaasi body size ranges from 50 to 75 mm, and weigh between 19.7 and 50 grams. Male weight ranges from 10 to 45 grams.
These spiders are colorful, by our standards. Brachypelma klaasi has a black carapace, tarsi, femora, and coxae, and orange-yellow metatarsi, tibias, and patellas. The hairs on the opistosoma are also orange-yellow in color. Although this sounds flashy, these spiders are actually well camoflauged in their natural environment, and are quite difficult to see on natural substrates.
Range mass: 10 to 50 g.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
This tarantula lives in tropical deciduous forest at elevations between 300 and 1,400 m above sea level. The soil is sandy, neutral, and sparse in organic matter.
The climate is highly seasonal, with pronounced wet and dry seasons. The annual rainfall (707 mm) occurs almost exclusively between June and December, when hurricanes are not uncommon. The mean temperature in the wet season is 32 C. The mean temperature in the dry season is 29 C.
Range elevation: 300 to 1,400 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
The hunting strategies of B. klaasi include actively searching the forest floor close to its burrow, including searching up to two meters high in the surrounding vegetation. The tarantula also uses the "sit-and-wait" hunting method. Silk around the entrance to the burrow helps to transmit vibrations from prey movement to the tarantula. Typical prey include large insects such as Orthoptera and Blattodea as well as small lizards and frogs. After feeding in the burrow, prey remains are removed from the burrow and deposited near the entrance.
Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )
These tarantulas probably have some impact on insect populations. To the extent that they are a prey species, they may have a positive impact on predator populations. Because they burrow, these spiders may also be seen as contributing to soil aeration.
Ecosystem Impact: soil aeration
The main predators of B. klaasi are armadillos, skunks, snakes, and tarantula wasps. (Biodiverstiy 1996) However, because of the venom and the hairs on the body of the spider, the rate of predation on adults is probably low. Although we find these tarantulas brightly colored, they blend in well with their environment, and so are somewhat cryptic in nature.
- tarantula wasps
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Communication in this species, at least as pertains to reproduction, includes tactile, and chemical components. Because males drum on female silk, females are aware of their presence outside their burrows. However, it has not been shown whether females are responding to vibrations from the drumming or noise produced from the drumming. Although these spiders have eight eyes, they are reported to have poor vision.
Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Females may live up to 30 years. Male lifespan may be less, especially because males tend to wander, and so are more likely to be victims of predation. There is also some evidence that females may cannabalize their mates, further reducing the life expectancy of males.
Status: wild: 30 (high) years.
Mating in this species occurs after a period of courtship behavior shown by a male. Males approach a female to initiate mating. Males apparently use some tactile or chemical cues from the silk the female deposits near her burrow to identify her as a potential mate. Once in contact with the female's silk, the male begins drumming his legs on it. This drumming alerts the female to the presence of a male.
Following this drumming either the male approaches the female, or the female may approach the male. The male may then box the female with his pedipalps. Mating typically takes place outside of the female's burrow. The actual physical contact between male and female may last between 67 and 196 seconds. Longer contact was observed in a pair where the female was most receptive, shorter contact occured in pairs where females were more aggressive. In two of three observed matings in this species, the female attacked the male after mating occured, and might have killed him if observers had not intervened. Although sexual cannabalism is not common in the Theraphosidae, this may be because of specially adapted male holds that prevent females from eating them.
After mating, females retreat into the burrow to produce an egg sac. They are often sealed in with leaves and silk.
Male B. klaasi sometimes show an interesting post-mating behavior. After copulating, males may deposit silk around the silk at the entrance to the female's burrow. In a cage, a second male introduced into the female's cage was unable to locate her burrow. This deposition of silk by males may inhibit other males from mating with a female, and may be a means of competition between males.
Although in the three matings reported by Yanez et al. 1999, only one male mated with each female, not enough matings have been studied to determine the precise mating system. If females routinely kill their mates, then males may be monogamous. However, there is no telling whether females may attract additional males after mating with the first. If females do not kill their mates, males may then move on to mate with other females. Further research into this area of behavior would be helpful.
The female B. klaasi lays a single egg sac containing 400 to 800 eggs in her burrow in April to May, immediately before the first rains of the season. The female guards the egg sac for two to three months before the spiderlings emerge in June to July. The spiderlings remain in the burrow for three more weeks before dispersing in July or August. Females become reproductively mature between 7 and 9 years of age, and can live for as many as 30 years. It is likely that they produce many eggs sacs durin their lives. Males mature more quickly, becoming capable of reporoduction at 4 to 6 years of age.
Breeding interval: Breeding may occur annually for mature animals.
Breeding season: Breeding takes place in April and May.
Range number of offspring: 400 to 800.
Range gestation period: 2 to 3 months.
Average time to independence: 3 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 7 to 9 minutes.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4 to 6 minutes.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous ; sperm-storing
Females invest in their young by provisioning their eggs with nutrients. They also construct egg sacs to keep the eggs safe until hatching. The young remain in their mother's burrow for about three weeks after hatching, and the mother presumably protects them during this time.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)
The value placed on tarantulas in the pet trade has led to high rates of collection and trafficking from Mexico. For this reason, all species of the genus Brachypelma have been included in Appendix II of CITES. This is the only genus of spiders to be recognized as endangered by CITES. The extreme rarity of several species of Brachypelma, combined with potential threats of habitat degradation and illegal trafficking, has led to the need for captive breeding for future reintroduction. Brachypelma klaasi is the rarest and most threatened of Mexican tarantulas. It is a long living, slow growing species. With a high proportion of pre-adult mortality; less the .1% of individuals are estimated to survive from egg to adult in the field.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The species adversely affects humans by illegal pet trafficking. Because B. klaasi is rare, it has an extremely high value on the black market. This causes many people to be arrested trying to steal tarantulas. Also, when humans do encounter these spiders, there is always the possibility of being bitten, which can be painful.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)
The main populations of B. klaasi are located away from humans. Therefore there is not much human interaction. The most reaction with this tarantula occurs at zoos. This is an extremely beautiful species, and a favorite of those who love spiders. For this reason, these animals are illegally captured and used in the pet trade.
Positive Impacts: pet trade
B. klaasi is found at elevations of 300–1400 m above sea level on the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental and some areas on the western limits of the Transverse Volcanic Belt in Jalisco and Nayarit states. Its known range extends from Tepic, Nayarit, in the north to Chamela, Jalisco, in the south, with the largest known population at the biological reserve at Chamela.
The setae of this species have a uniformly rusty appearance. The coloration is very similar to that of the six species of Brachypelma that are endemic to the west coast. B. boehmei is similar, having black tarsi, orange-yellow metatarsi, tibias and patellas, black femora and coxae and orange-yellow hairs on the opistosoma. It differs only in the carapace, which is yellow-orange in B. boehmei and black in B. klaasi. Another very similar species is B. baumgarteni. Adults of B. klaasi have a body length of about 16 cm.
Coming from the dry scrubland regions of Mexico, B. klaasi prefers a semi-arid habitat and in captivity would mean a substrate consisting of sand, dry coco peat and some wood. Moisture is readily welcomed as they are observed to drink more often than most other members of Brachypelma.
They will take insect prey such as crickets, dubias, superworms, small lizards and pinky mice.
The species is named in honor of Peter Klaas, the collector of the species.
- Platnick, Norman I. (2008): The world spider catalog, version 8.5. American Museum of Natural History.
- Locht, A., M. Yáñez & I. Vãzquez (1999): Distribution and natural history of Mexican species of Brachypelma and Brachypelmides (Theraphosidae, Theraphosinae) with morphological evidence for their synonymy. The Journal of Arachnology 27: 196-200.
- Yáñez, M., et al. (1999): Courtship and Mating Behavior of Brachypelma klaasi (Aranea: Theraphosidae). The Journal of Arachnology 27: 165-170.
- Yáñez, M. & G. Floater (2000): Spatial distribution and habitat preferences of the endangered tarantula, Brachypelma klaasi (Aranea: Theraphosidae) in Mexico. Biodiversitiy and Conservation 9: 795-810.
- Striffler, B. & A. Graminske (2003): Brachypelma – die bunten Vogelspinnen Mexikos. DRACO 4(16): 52-61.
- West, R. C. (2005): The Brachypelma of Mexico. British Tarantula Society Journal 20(4): 108-119.
- West, R. C. (2006): Die Brachypelma-Arten aus Mexiko. ARACHNE 11(1): 4-17.
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