Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Grammostola rosea

DIETInsects, frogs, spiders, and small mammals

RANGEFound throughout northern Chile, Bolivia and Argentina

HABITATPrimarily deserts and Scrublands

Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula

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Program and General Information

Chilean rose tarantulas are calm, docile spiders native to desert scrub habitats in South America. They are fairly large with a 5-6 inch leg span; females do tend to be heavier and larger. Their coloration ranges from a light brown to a dark copper color, and some individuals even have a pinkish-red hue. Like most tarantulas, the Chilean rose hair tarantula is covered in thin hairs called setae that they can use for climbing, sensing, and defense. Their diet primarily consists of arthropods, but they will also eat small amphibians and mammals. Breeding season occurs between September and October. The female constructs an egg sac and lays anywhere from 50 to a few hundred eggs. After about 6 weeks, the eggs will hatch and will mature within 2-4 years. Young tarantulas molt up to 4 times a year. This species faces challenges from human activities, including agriculture, urbanization, and the pet trade.


Diet

Rose hair tarantulas primarily eat arthropods, such as insects and other spiders, but will also prey on small amphibians and small mammals. Most tarantulas can go weeks without eating but water is necessary.

They are nocturnal hunters and do not spin webs to catch prey. Instead, these tarantulas will stalk and attack their prey similar to a jaguar. Rose hair tarantulas are venomous and will inject their prey with this venom, which is full of digestive enzymes that break down the prey and turn it into nutritious soup. This venom is not fatal to humans.


Habitat and Range

Chilean rose hair tarantulas are native to South America and can be found primarily in Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. They thrive in scrubland and dry desert habitats.

Rose hair tarantulas live in burrows in the ground which they have dug or found abandoned by rodents. These burrows are lined with silk produced by the spider. They are nocturnal and spend most of their day in the shelter of their moist, cool burrows. During the night they will venture out to look for prey or a mate.


Common Physical Features

Chilean rose hair tarantulas are fairly large, docile arachnids. Their leg span can reach 5-6 inches when fully grown. Females tend to have heavier and larger bodies than the males. They are usually either dark brown, blackish or grey in their base color.
Some Chilean rose hair tarantulas have orange/reddish hairs all over their body, while others have a tan body with pink hairs and some have copper colored hairs. They have eight eyes, which are very small and generally not very strong. Tarantulas have four pairs of legs, or eight legs total. In addition to their legs, tarantulas have four other appendages near the mouth called chelicerae and pedipalps. The chelicerae contain the fangs and venom. A tarantula’s fangs fold under the body, meaning that it must strike downward to impale its prey. The pedipalps are used as feelers and claws, and are also used by the male as a part of reproduction. Both the chelicerae and pedipalps aid in feeding.

Adaptations: Tarantula’s digestive system is designed to handle liquid food. In order to be able to properly eat their prey, tarantulas will inject their prey with venom. The tarantula’s venom acts as a neurotoxin, affecting the nervous system, and a cytotoxin, breaking down tissues. The venom will act as a digestive fluid and work to break down the prey into a nutritious soup for the tarantula to easily eat. Although this tarantula’s venom has not caused any known fatalities to humans, people may experience a range of allergic effects and caution should be taken when handling a tarantula.
Like most tarantulas, the Chilean rose hair tarantula’s body is covered with tiny hairs. These hairs serve various functions, from holding hairs to grip on varied surfaces and hairs for combing silk, to sensory hairs. When threatened tarantulas will do a short display where they will raise their front legs and present their fangs in preparation to defend themselves, after which they will beat a hasty retreat or will simply walk away. New World tarantulas (those that live in the Americas) have urticating hairs on their abdomens that can be used for defense. These spiders can flick the urticating hairs off their abdomens, causing an irritating reaction in an attacker and even cause respiratory issues in smaller animals. High-strung specimens will often show a dark bald patch on their abdomens from flicking away the hairs.


Behavior and Life Cycle

The Rose Hair Tarantula is known for being one of the most docile of all tarantulas. However they are aggressive towards each other, even females will fight if left in the same enclosure. Females will also eventually eat the males if left too long together. They are solitary animals and only come together to mate.

Breeding season occurs between September and October. Males will signify they are ready to mate by approaching a female in her burrow and performing a “dance” by vibrating the abdomen and tapping the front legs. When this is successful, the female will be enticed to follow the male out of the burrow. The actual mating process is usually over in about 30 seconds. Spiders are oviparous, which means they lay eggs. Once reproduction is successful, females will construct an egg sac containing any where from 50 to several hundred eggs. The female will carry and fiercely guard this sac for 6-7 weeks until the eggs hatch.

While adult females molt once a year, spiderlings will molt 4 times a year until they are mature at around 2-4 years.

Females tend to live significantly longer than males; up to 25 years versus 5-10 years.


Conservation Messaging

Together with Nature
Although they are currently not listed as a concern, habitat destruction and fragmentation can lead to serious problems for species such as the Chilean rose hair tarantula. Human activities, such as residential and commercial development, farming and ranching, and construction of roads and railways can all lead to the decline of tarantula populations. Tarantulas play an important ecological role because they prey upon insects. Spiders help keep gardens healthy by eating pest species that can destroy trees, flowers, and bushes. They can also help by catching mosquitoes in their webs which will create a happier outside oasis for you and your family. Even though tarantulas are not found naturally in Pennsylvania, it is still important for us to realize that arachnids are vital to our environment, even in our own backyard.

What can we do?: One thing we can do to help tarantulas is create a spider friendly garden! Planting natural areas around your house or community encourages wildlife into the area by providing food and shelter for those species. Keeping undisturbed areas under shrubs or in flower beds will encourage spiders to create their webs in these areas.

Never remove an animal from the wild! Some well-meaning people will trap and relocate “pest” animals but the truth is, trapping rarely ends well for wildlife and is not a long term solution. While you might be thinking you are helping that animal, most people don’t realize the amount of care and time that goes in to caring for these animals, and removing them from their natural environment can be detrimental to the wild populations. If wild animals are not causing damage or posing danger, the best solution is to coexist! If you come across injured wildlife please call your local wildlife rehabilitation center as they are better equipped to handle and care for that animal.

The most important thing that we can do to help sustain their habitats is to “Leave No Trace”. Once you leave nature, no one should know that you’ve been there. This means bringing out anything that you’ve brought in. Additionally, leaving the environment unaltered is equally important.


Fun Facts

  • Tarantula’s eyes are fixed and sense light, dark and shadows; they are located on the top of the cephalothorax and cannot see under or directly in front.
  • As they outgrow their existing skin all tarantulas regularly go through an extensive molt, shedding their entire skin as well as the linings of their mouth, respiratory organs, stomach and sexual organs.
  • Tarantulas can regenerate a leg if one is lost.
  • There are over 800 species of tarantulas.
  • The largest spider is the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula, which can have a leg span of 12 inches. Despite its impressive size its venom is not poisonous to humans.
  • As with all tarantulas, females outlive their male counterparts considerably. When males reach sexual maturity (indicated by the presence of physical sexual characteristics after a final molt) their life is nearly over. Once the male has fulfilled the biological function of mating, it usually will die of natural causes or the female may eat him.

Bibliography

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