Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula

STATUSNear Threatened


DIETSmall arthropods

RANGEMexico along central-Pacific coast

HABITATDry to semi-dry scrublands, grasslands, and deciduous tropical forests

Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula

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Program and General Information
The Red Knee Tarantula is a type of burrowing tarantula that inhabits the Pacific mountains of Mexico. The Red Knee Tarantula is most known for its hairy body and the red bands that are along its legs.

The Red Knee Tarantula inhabits the complex scrub-forest habitat and semi-desert regions where there is an abundance of food. They need to burrow, so they are rarely found on rock faces.

The Red Knee Tarantula is found in Mexico, south-western United States, and Panama. They are quite common now to be kept as pets as they are slow growers and they have a beautiful body in color and shape. They also have a bite that could hurt a human but would not be severely harmful.

Common Physical Features
The Mexican Red Knee is a moderately large tarantula. A fully mature Red Knee can reach approximately 4-6 inches in its total leg span. They typically reach full size in about 5-7 years; males may only take 4 years to reach adulthood. They are black with orange setae (hair) on their legs and abdomen. They have eight eyes that are very small and generally not very strong. Tarantulas have chelicerae, equipped with “fangs”, which are connected to venom glands used to immobilize and predigest prey. To each side of the chelicerae are pedipalps, or leg-like appendages used for food manipulation as well as during copulation.

Habitat and Global Range
Found exclusively in Mexico along the central Pacific coast. They live in dry to semi-dry scrublands, grasslands, and deciduous tropical forests.

Nocturnal predator of small arthropods. Prey is injected with venom and enzymes that begin breaking it down into ingestible fluids. They do not spin a web to catch food, they typically rely on ambushing their prey.

Behavior and Life Cycle
Mexican Red Knee Tarantulas are solitary. They will only socialize during the breeding season; older spiders may readily cannibalize younger spiders. Males will approach females with special hooks on their pedipalps, used to “lift” the female and bend her backwards. He then uses his other set of legs while collecting sperm with his pedipalps into a packet, which he inserts into the female’s spermatheca, which can store the male’s living sperm.

Spiders are oviparous, which means their babies come from eggs laid in a large egg sack. Females will produce an egg sack a few weeks after mating has occurred. This species produces large egg sacs, usually containing in excess of 200 eggs. The female fertilizes the eggs with sperm. The female will usually carry the egg sack between her chelicerae. Once the young hatch, they are left to survive on their own. Eggs hatch inside the egg case after about 3 months, and will remain inside for another 3 weeks.

Immature tarantulas molt up to 4 times per year; adult females molt once a year throughout their adult life. Males reach maturity typically at the 20th instar (phase between two molting periods).

Fun Facts

  • All spiders have venom that is effective on small arthropods.
  • While Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas are not usually harmful to humans, people with allergies to other arachnids such as other spiders or scorpions may have a reaction.
  • The tarantula’s hair-like setae serve them in many ways, but primarily as sensory structures. Some are sensitive to pressure, others to heat or air movement or vibrations.
  • 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, fangs, respiratory organs, stomach, and sexual organs.
  • Tarantulas can regenerate a leg if one is lost.
  • There are over 800 documented species of tarantulas.
  • Tarantulas are very fragile. If dropped, their abdomens can rupture and the tarantula will not survive.
  • Unlike most other spiders, tarantulas do not catch their prey in webs. They stalk and attack their prey, or wait until prey wanders by their burrow.
  • Most tarantulas can go weeks without eating.
  • The largest spider is the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula, which can have a leg span of 12 inches.
  • The smallest species of tarantula discovered is only the size of a fingernail.

Conservation Messaging
The Mexican Red Knee Tarantula is currently listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List and placed under CITES Appendix II. Mass exportation for the pet trade was and continues to be a primary threat to this species; the species was protected in 1985 and now requires a permit to legally export and import. The species is still regularly smuggled due to the species’ popularity and high value of adult tarantulas.

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