WTF Fun Fact 13544 – How Long Can a Tarantula Live Without Food?

If you’re a tarantula owner, hopefully you’re not asking yourself, “How long can a tarantula live without food?”

However, if for some reason you need to know, the answer may astound you.

So, How Long Can a Tarantula Live Without Food?

Tarantulas, the large, hairy spiders that evoke fear in many, hold an astonishing survival capability – the ability to endure up to two years without a meal.

It’s a feat that many creatures on Earth would find hard to match.

But how does this eight-legged creature achieve such a prolonged fast?

Unique Physiology Allows Tarantulas to Live Without Food

Unlike mammals that require regular food intake for energy and maintenance, tarantulas have a slower metabolism. This low metabolic rate means that they don’t burn energy at the same speed as other animals. Consequently, they can conserve energy over long periods, allowing them to survive during times of food scarcity.

While they can survive without food for a long duration, access to water remains crucial.

Tarantulas, like all living organisms, need water for basic cellular functions. They can go weeks without it, but eventually, the lack of water will become a bigger concern than the lack of food.

When in their natural habitat, tarantulas will often burrow deep into the ground to access cooler and more humid conditions, which helps them maintain their water balance.

Refusing Food

Tarantulas, throughout their lifetime, go through periods of molting. This is when they shed their exoskeleton to allow for growth or to repair any damage.

During the pre-molt and molting phases, tarantulas tend to refuse food altogether, further lengthening the periods between meals. Additionally, the younger the spider, the more frequent these molting cycles are.

As tarantulas mature and their growth slows, their molting becomes less frequent, and the intervals between feeding can extend even further.

Food Scarcity Determines How Long A Tarantula May Go Without Food

In their natural habitats, tarantulas may not always find prey readily available.

Drought, seasonal changes, or other environmental factors can result in food shortages. Thus, this incredible adaptation to long fasting durations is not just an interesting fact; it’s a survival mechanism. It ensures that during lean times, the tarantula can wait it out, remaining relatively inactive, conserving energy, and then springing to action when food becomes available again.

Another factor that plays into the tarantula’s ability to go without food for extended periods is its size.

Larger tarantulas have more fat reserves than their smaller counterparts. These reserves provide the necessary energy during food shortages. Consequently, bigger tarantulas can often go longer without eating compared to younger, smaller ones.

Don’t Let Captive Tarantulas Go Without Food

While tarantulas have this remarkable ability, those who keep them as pets should exercise caution. In captivity, it’s not uncommon for tarantulas to refuse food for various reasons. Whether it’s due to stress, an impending molt, or changes in their environment, pet owners should monitor their spiders closely.

If a tarantula doesn’t eat, it’s essential to ensure that it has access to fresh water. And while they can go without food, this doesn’t mean they should be deliberately starved. Their natural ability to fast is a survival mechanism in the wild, not an invitation for neglect.

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Source: “How Long Can Tarantulas Go Without Eating Or Water?” — Animal Vivid

WTF Fun Fact 13182 – Peppa Pig Episode Banned in Australia

If you’re not a parent of a little one, there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with Peppa Pig. The animated show is British, aimed at preschool-aged children. It follows the adventures of a female pig and her family. Riveting stuff. But it actually does get interesting if you know that there was a Peppa Pig episode banned in Australia!

Why was a Peppa Pig episode banned in Australia?

The episode of Peppa Pig called “Mister Skinny Legs” came out in its first season, in 2004. This particular episode indicated that spiders are friendly and there’s no reason to fear them. It’s a good reminder not to be afraid of things just because they exist as “scary” in the public imagination. In fact, the episode points out that most spiders and small and can’t hurt you.

When a spider enters Peppa Pig’s room, her dad explains that there’s nothing to be afraid of and lets the little piglet pick it up and tuck it into bed with her.

This simply did not fly in Australia. You know, the place where spiders are not all small and can be very harmful.

The Guardian (cited below) revealed:

“This advice from the British-produced show was deemed to be ‘inappropriate for Australian audiences’ and the ABC banned it from future broadcast. The episode had not been broadcast on TV because of its unsuitability, but was ‘accidentally published online due to a technical problem,’ the ABC said at the time.”

They also mentioned that “Data released in January revealed 12,600 people were admitted to hospital for spider bites between 2000 and 2013.”

The second banning of Peppa Pig

When the episode aired on Nick Jr years later, parents wrote in with complaints. Nick Jr pulled the episode from the air again.

The episode is a mere 5 minutes long, but parents felt it posed enough of a danger that they didn’t want their kids encouraged to see spiders as their “friends.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Peppa Pig ‘spiders can’t hurt you’ episode pulled off air in Australia – again” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13149 – Spiders Recycle Their Webs

Not all spider webs are destroyed with a broom. In fact, spiders can recycle their webs by eating them!

How and why do spiders recycle their webs?

Some spider webs are built to last years while others only last a day or so. Of course, while those beautifully spun webs in the corner of your attic may have been built as a long-term home for the spider, in that case, their duration is influenced by how long humans allow them to stick around.

But for some neglected spider webs, they can be so enduring that a new generation of spiders might come to reside there.

More fragile webs may only last a day because spiders build them simply to catch food. Rain and pollen may affect their stickiness. In these cases, spiders will pack up a web for the day and build again the next. When this happens, spiders often eat their webs to recycle the amino acids that made up the silk protein used in web construction.

It’s an impressive feat since webs can consist of 65 feet of silk!

Not all spiders ingest their silk though. And some use it to wrap their eggs sacs. But considering how much energy it takes to weave a web, it’s not all that surprising that spiders recycle webs by eating them in some cases.

Spider web building

Spider web silk is made out of protein chains. And some of it is as strong as kevlar (though obviously it’s not as tightly woven, so we hardly notice when batting them away). In fact, scientists are studying it in the hopes of making future body armor!

Spiders typically start building webs by pulling silk from a gland in their fourth leg. The fourth leg on the opposite side contains even more silk glands. Then, in order to begin, the spider (depending on the species) can shoot it out to attach to an object or wait for a breeze to carry it to the base from which it will start building.

From there, the spider will typically create a number of attachment lines. Then they decide which are the strongest and begin weaving from there. Different spiders have different web patterns. In fact, they’re so distinct that experts can look at the structure of a web and tell you precisely which type of spider built it.

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Source: “Why do spiders eat their own webs?” — Discover Wildlife

WTF Fun Fact 12798 – Top Phobias

What are you afraid of? A surprising number of people admit to having phobias in the U.S. In fact, a recent YouGov survey found that 83% said they had these genuine fears. And the top phobias were snakes and heights.

America’s top fears

Despite the pandemic, disease ranked fifth – after public speaking.

YouGov even broke the phobias down by gender, age, income, and political party! There wasn’t much difference between these categories other than women being more likely to fear snakes, spiders, and crowded spaces.

Men were more likely to say they had no fears. But those who had phobias named heights and public speaking as the things that freak them out most.

Fears vs phobias

Now, the YouGov poll doesn’t use the word “phobia” in the proper psychological way. Phobias can truly affect the way you live your life, and they’re more than just fears.

According to VeryWell Mind:

“The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that phobias affect approximately 10% of U.S. adults each year. These phobias typically emerge during childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood. They also impact twice as many women as they do men. There are a number of explanations for why phobias develop, including evolutionary and behavioral theories. Whatever the cause, phobias are treatable conditions that can be minimized and even eliminated with cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques and medication.”

In addition, “phobias can lead to marked fear and symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness. In some cases, these symptoms escalate into a full-blown panic attack.”

Phobias may not always be logical (most snakes and spiders don’t want to hurt you), but that doesn’t make the fear less real.

Interestingly, exposure therapy is one common treatment for phobias. During exposure therapy, you’re around the thing you fear the most in order to desensitize you to it and prove that it’s not as scary as you might think.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Phobias – 1000 U.S. Adult Citizens” — YouGov

WTF Fun Fact 12677 – How To Survive A Date With A Spider

In many species of spiders, the last thing males do is mate. After that, they’ve done their job for the evolution of the species and are no longer needed. So females have evolved to simply eat them. They provide nutrients for the babies, after all!

It’s called sexual cannibalism and it’s one of the many facts of nature that we humans may have a hard time wrapping our heads around (or not, depending on your mate).

A few species have evolved to avoid this fate – for example, some may choose to amputate their own legs as a defense strategy in order to distract the females and get away (with the remaining legs, of course). In some sense, this makes sense since the female gets some nutrients and the male gets to hobble away with his life. It just seems a bit drastic from a human perspective.

Other spiders have learned to weave silk around the legs of the females before mating so they can make an easier escape afterward, which seems like a wise move as long as the female survives to produce her young.

The Philoponella prominens have developed a strategy whereby they use their two front legs to propel themselves out of reach of the females, getting away with all of their legs and their lives (if they hit the eject button in time, at least).

Since Philoponella prominens don’t have venom, the males who get cannibalized are in for a rough ride before death. The females produce over 400 feet of silk to “mummify” them, typically winding it so tight that they’re crushed and/or suffocated.

Not only are these spiders interesting for their actions but how they achieve them. Most jumping spiders launch from their back legs, so jumping using the front legs leads to some more interesting questions about the evolution of these creatures, especially since they don’t have muscles in those legs.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the researcher who made this discovery noted that “one male was able to perform the behavior six times over the course of about eight hours, but was finally killed and eaten after his final performance–perhaps being too exhausted to spring himself to safety.”

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Source: “This Male Spider Catapults Itself Into the Air to Avoid Sexual Cannibalism” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12590 – The Spider That Eats Its Mother

It may sound like just another day at the office for some mothers used to giving their all to their children, but some spider moms really do make the ultimate sacrifice for their young.

It’s called matriphagy, the act of eating one’s mother, and it’s rare. But it happens in a spider species called Stegodyphus lineatus.

These spiders only have one group of babies throughout their lives. And when these spider babies are born, they are entirely dependent on their mothers to regurgitate food and feed it to them so they can grow up.

And what does she get in return?

Well, to be fair, the moms don’t put up a fight. After about two weeks of motherhood, they allow their children to consume them, leaving behind only an exoskeleton.

The spiders are native to Israel, and research into matriphagy in this species showed another interesting thing. Females that had given birth actually started to digest their own tissues before their gruesome deaths. Now, that might be a sign that the species just wasn’t designed to survive motherhood. However, Dr. Mor Salomon, a postdoctoral fellow in entomology at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, also found that the ovaries and the heart were the last organs to degenerate.

It also seems that spider mothers know their time is limited because they stop maintaining their web after their babies begin to grow.

Please don’t assume that females who don’t give birth have it any easier. They also tend to sacrifice themselves when a member of the colony has babies. Researchers are still looking into whether this is conditioned behavior or part of the species’ biology. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Arachnid Matriphagy: These Spider Mothers Literally Die for Their Young” — Entomology Today