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Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - male - female

Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - Male Female
Salero Ranch, 4300 ft elevation, 8 mi E of Tubac, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, USA
July 31, 2013
There were two spiders interacting -- mating, I am informed by Richard Hayes -- and after they separated, the larger one returned to her burrow.

Images of this individual: tag all
Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - female Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - male - female Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - male - female Aphonopelma chalcodes? - Aphonopelma chalcodes - female

Moved from Aphonopelma.

Tarantulas fighting...
Not fighting but instead, mating. The darker tarantula on the left is the male, while the lighter colored, heavier one is the female. If you look closely you will notice the male using the "hooks" located on the underside of the first set of legs to hold the female in place. The hooks actually engage the female's fangs. While in this position, (with the female standing almost straight up) the male is able to transfer the sperm capsule stored in his pedipalps (those short leg-like appendages, one on each side of his chelicera or fangs) into a slit in the female's underside. If he didn't restrain her during this process, there would be a good chance he would be killed and eaten before he was able to fertilize her. Frequently this happens anyway (being eaten that is) but it occurs after the mating and it is believed that by doing so, the male "gives" a bit more to insure the eggs laid by the female will have the very best chance of producing healthy young.

I shouldn't have assumed...
that they were fighting -- thank you for the correction here. Before I took the photos, I watched the smaller one (the male) repeatedly tap his front legs on the ground near the burrow, after which the female emerged from the hole and they began their interaction.

Tarantulas mating...
...and it's a beautiful thing to see. The male approaches the female's burrow, and using his forelegs and feet, reaches out and "strums" the webbing in front of her lair, then backing away raises those legs straight up. she responds by making short rushes to the mouth of her burrow, retreating after each rush. The male continues to strum at the webbing, backing off each time she rushes out. The "dance" continues, the movements become more intense, the rushes more determined, until finally she no longer retreats but instead emerges from the burrow. I watched the "dance" one night at Saguaro National Park. Anyone fortunate enough to experience this should consider it a gift. And to catch it all with a camera? Wow!

The Mating Ritual
You are so lucky to have seen this in the wild! I have several tarantulas, and I have seen Grammostolas (rosehairs) do this in captivity. It is amazing to watch . . . and I stood by with chopsticks to help the male make his escape before the female decided to have him for lunch. Once he did get tagged and had some hemolymph (tarantula blood) escape his abdomen, but he didn't die. He did, however, retire. I have not seen a sperm web since! **NOTE** The male makes a special sperm web on which to deposit sperm. He then "loads" the emboli on his pedipalps with sperm deposited on the web for later transfer to the female. Like I said before . . . you were very lucky to see this in the wild!!!!

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