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A couple of weeks ago, I posted images of a tarantula that resides in our backyard. I expressed a bit of surprise — and disappointment — that so far, this year, I’d found only one of these huge spiders living with us. Shortly thereafter I discovered a second suspicious hole in our yard. I went out one night, armed with a flashlight and a flash-equipped camera, and sure enough, there was a second tarantula, sitting by the hole’s entrance.
In this image the tarantula sits with its abdomen at the right side of the image, poised just above the burrow’s entrance, perfectly positioned for a quick retreat. In a second image, below, I depict the tarantula “face” on. The two short “legs” at the front of the spider are actually modified mouth parts called “pedipalps.” They are used by the tarantula for grasping and holding prey, insects and other small invertebrates. The tarantula’s tiny eyes appear as bright spots atop its “head.”
I’m convinced that this individual is an old friend. The burrow is at the exact location of a tarantula’s burrow that I’d located a year ago. I’ve learned that from time to time, a tarantula will elect to become dormant, retreating down into its burrow and sealing shut the burrow’s entrance until the spider next becomes active. What I was unaware of until I renewed acquaintances with this individual is for just how long these big spiders can choose to remain dormant. I last saw this tarantula in August 2021. Thereafter, its burrow entrance had been sealed shut until I photographed it this year. That means that this tarantula had been dormant for about 10 months!
The ability to remain dormant for so long is an aspect of the tarantula’s very slow metabolism. These spiders can go months between meals without suffering ill effects and they obviously can shut down activities for extended periods in order to conserve energy. It sounds like a boring existence but obviously, the tarantula doesn’t see it that way. Perhaps also as a consequence of a very slow metabolism a tarantula can live for a very long time. Male tarantulas live for about a decade, females may live for much longer.
Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens, illuminated by Canon 600EX-RT accessory flash, M setting, ISO 160, f9 @ 1/160.