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The Tarantula Defense Mechanism – Urticating Hairs

An interesting hobby or activity is observation of a tarantula’s behaviors. Their range of behaviors reflects a multi-faceted personality, which makes the tarantula a favorite for observant pet owners who like to learn about their pets. Tarantulas definitely let you know what their peeves and idiosyncrasies are, and once peeved, they perform a defense tactic that you may not want to be around to see!

Most tarantulas today have very furry bodies and legs. Apart from the normal hairs that cover the body, tarantulas have a dense covering of stinging, slightly venomous hairs commonly referred to as urticating hairs. As we already know, tarantulas are loners and will remain docile and calm unless provoked or backed into a corner. One of their chief defense tactics when threatened is to release or “flick out” these urticating hairs in the direction of the attacker.

Many a creature has succumbed to the might of the underestimated urticating hairs, which can be deadly to most. As mentioned before, the hairs are slightly venomous, and can instantly poison another creature that attacks the tarantula. However, humans are the exception, as the urticating hairs are not known to cause fatal injuries.

Tarantulas are naturally wild creatures, and cannot be tamed. Hence, it is certainly not recommended that owners handle them unnecessarily. Various side effects from urticating hairs coming in contact with human skin have been reported. The most common of these include itching, soreness and swelling in the affected areas. In worst case scenarios, humans can inhale some of the urticating hairs, which can cause blockages to the nasal passages and result in labored breathing. Several tarantula enthusiasts have actually had to give up their hobby due to unexpected allergic reactions.

Thankfully, urticating hairs can also be used for less violent purposes. Most terrestrial tarantulas use these hairs to mark their territory. Once the terrestrial tarantula makes its silken web, they outline the area with urticating hairs to indicate a prohibited zone. Female tarantulas also release these hairs after they have laid their eggs to serve as a protective barrier from predators that might be interested in feasting on the eggs.

Some tarantula species have more irritating urticating hairs than other species. Nevertheless, it would be wise to stay away from activities that could aggravate your pet tarantula and cause it to react defensively by releasing their hairy, venomous weapons. One may want to believe that after the hairs are released, the tarantula no longer has that defense mechanism. However, rest assured that released urticating hairs are soon replaced by new ones once the next molting process is completed.

Interesting, isn’t it?



Source by Jack Crawford

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