Costa Rican Zebra-leg Tarantula
- In the wild, spiderlings eat pinhead crickets and other small insects, while adults eat crickets, other large insects, and the occasional small vertebrate.
- In captivity, they are feed crickets every week, and one pinkie mouse or earth worm once a month.
Notes on Enrichment & Training
Colony or Breeding Management
Tips on Presentation
Tips on Handling
- This species is not considered aggressive, and rarely attempts to bite. However, they generally have a nervous disposition and can move fast. This can make handling a challenge as they are difficult to control.
- There are many opinions on if tarantulas should be handled. In general, limiting handling seems to be a wise approach. Be attentive to signs of irritation in the tarantula – shedding urticating hairs, increasing movement usually means that the animal is agitated and should not be handled. Also, a very short fall for an invertebrate can be fatal so do not handle the animal in a way that could cause this happen.
- After the tarantula molts, it should be given some “time off” from handling. No handling the week after molt is a good guideline, but some institutions will rest their tarantulas for longer than that. Fresno Chaffee Zoo will not handle their tarantulas for 2 weeks after a molt, and Zoo Atlanta leaves their tarantula alone for 3 weeks after a molt.
- Nashville Zoo limits handling to no more than 30 minutes at one time and no more than once per day. Other institutions will allow multiple presentations in one day (as many as four, at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo) but the length of time the tarantula can be handled at each presentation is much shorter: typically, 5 to 10 minutes.
Comments from the Rating System
- Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square: Our female zebra-leg was really fast when she was younger but is very well behaved now. She is about 13 years old this year (2013) and we have not had any health issues with her. She is the quickest tarantula to re-condition to handling style if she has not been handled in an extensive period of time.
Natural History Information
Range and Habitat
This tarantula is found from the southern United States the Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and possibly areas in Guatemala and Panama. Their preferred habitat is in tropical forests on the Pacific coast with secondary cleared land and hillside highland tropical forests.
This species has two phases. The phase from Nicaragua is dark brown with tan striping on the legs. The phase from Costa Rica is black with white striping on the legs.
Full grown, the body is about 2.5 inches long and the leg span is 5 inches.
Mating can occur any time of the year, but it is highly dependent on environmental conditions. Their vision is quite poor, so mating proceeds by sense of touch, smell, and vibration. As a prospective male carefully approaches a female, she will rear back on her hind legs. He will rub her on her sternum with his pedipalps to calm her down. As he pushes her upright, he will use his first set of legs to hook onto her fangs, preventing her from attacking him. He will then deposit sperm from each pedipalp. After detaching, he quickly backs away. Females rarely kill males after mating.
Before laying her eggs, the female will make a silk egg capsule to protect them from predators and fluctuating environmental conditions. Depending on her vitality, she will lay anywhere from 100 to over 500 eggs in the capsule. Spiderlings will hatch about six weeks later, but sometimes incubation will take longer. The female will guard the egg capsule well during incubation, but the spiderlings are on their own as soon as they hatch.
Male tarantulas reach sexual maturity in one to two years, and then live for another 6 to 18 months. Females, on the other hand, require 3 to 10 years to reach adulthood, and can live up to two years as a reproductive adult. This data comes from captive populations; the lifespan in the wild is unknown.
This nocturnal spider constructs an underground, silk-lined burrow that is anywhere from 10 inches to 30 feet deep. It will hide in the burrow during the day.
Threats and Conservation Status
This species has no special conservation status.
Did you know…
- Some hairs contain temperature or smell receptors. Other hairs can detect airborne vibrations. Hairs in certain areas, mostly on the abdomen, can act as an itchy irritant to potential predators.
Contributors and Citations
- The Philadelphia Zoo
- AZA Program Animal Listserv