Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hopalong, how you've grown!

Two  months ago, Laurie brought me a spider on a tip of a pine branch. It was so small, so nearly transparent, and so active that it took two weeks to get a photo; it must have been about 4 millimetres long by then.

Hopalong, on a pine needle.

I kept it, and a second like it, in a jar for a month, then transferred them to an old, scratched-up aquarium with a fresh batch of pine tips and the latest crop of fruit flies from my trap in the kitchen. They've been hard to see, hiding among the needles, mostly.

Hopalong, not hiding too well at the moment.

But yesterday, one was out on the side wall. She had just molted, and was resting above the abandoned exoskeleton, stretching herself out into her fresh skin, still soft.

Growing up.

The old molt. She splits the body, then shucks it like a coat, pulling the 8 legs out last.*

And now she measures about 8 mm fangs to spinnerets.

(I had to photograph her through the scratchy glass; she's just as excitable and hoppy as ever. I edited out most of the scratches, but didn't touch her in the photo.)

*I found this YouTube time-lapse sequence of a tarantula molting. This can take from an hour up to 12 hours, including the drying time, when the spider is too soft even to right itself.


  1. That's very neat. The tarantula video is something as well; I was at the invertebrate house at the zoo a while back the morning after a tarantula had molted; the staff and volunteers were all giddy to show it to me and have me guess which was the spider and which was the old skin (which, for the record, I guessed correctly, but it was harder than one would think).

  2. Interesting, what with great patience, you discover and capture on film. Re tarantula - gotta love that time lapse photography. Amazing.


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