Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LunaTone's First Molt!

Okay... so technically this isn't the first time she's ever molted, but it is the first time she's molted since I got her back in February, so that's all that matters, right?! It's the first time I've ever caught one of my tarantulas in the act -- and had the opportunity to witness the entire process from start to finish, which is pretty swell.

In case you aren't familiar with what molting is/entails, it's something all tarantulas (and most other invertebrates) go through to grow. Tarantulas have exoskeletons covering their entire bodies, and they periodically shed them as a new, larger one forms underneath. It's a process that can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours depending on the spider, and during this time tarantulas are incredibly fragile and vulnerable. Even the slightest disturbance during molting can cause death, and for up to a week afterwards tarantulas can't even eat while their new bodies and fangs are hardening. Molting is really pretty fascinating. You can learn more about it here if you're interested.

I happened to get home from work the other night right when LunaTone had just flipped over onto her back (the position Ts almost always molt in). She wasn't moving at all, so I was worried she had started while I was gone and had gotten stuck and died, because that's how my Greenbottle Blue died a few years ago. She was completely still, but after a few minutes I noticed her start to slowly move her legs. Just few minutes later she looked like this:

The entire process took less than an hour, and afterwards she just laid on her back for awhile before getting up and sneaking into her burrow. Her new exoskeleton is still hardening, so I've been trying to leave her be and have only been taking pictures through the glass of her enclosure to avoid disturbing her. She's been pretty active today, so I think she'll be ready to eat and venture out of her tank again soon. I haven't been able to take her out to get a real idea of how much she's grown, but if I had to guess I would say she gained close to an inch, and probably has a legspan of about 4.5 inches now! I was able to wrestle her shed exoskeleton away from her the next morning but unfortunately she chewed up the abdomen beyond recognition overnight so I couldn't use it to verify her sex this time. Boo.

And because I'm kinda sorta addicted to GIF making these days, here's a little live-action snippet!

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