Poecilotheria metallica

3 years ago by in Systematics and Taxonomy, Systematics and Taxonomy

Poecilotheria metallica is a species of tarantula. It reflects brilliant metallic blue color. Like others in its genus it exhibits an intricate fractal-like pattern on the abdomen. The species’ natural habitat is deciduous forest in Andra Pradesh, in central southern India. P. metallica was first discovered in the town of Gooty, a fact reflected in some of its common names: Gooty sapphire ornamental tree spider, Gooty sapphire, andGooty tarantula. Other common names are metallic tarantula, peacock parachute spider, peacock tarantula, or salepurgu.

Distribution

P. metallica is found only in a small area of less than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), a reserve forest that is nonetheless highly disturbed. Surveys of adjacent forest have failed to observe this species. The type specimen was discovered in a railway timber yard in Gooty about 100 km southwest of its known range, but it is believed to have been transported there by train.

Behaviour

P. metallica’s behaviour parallels that of many arboreal spiders. In the wild the P. metallica live in holes of tall trees where they make asymmetric funnel webs. Their primary prey consists of various flying insects, which they seize in flight and paralyze. It is not unknown for the spiders of this genus to live communally when territory, i.e. number of holes per tree, is limited.

This species is desired by many tarantula enthusiasts, with adults sometimes pricing above $500 in the United States. Demand for 2-week-old unsexed spiderlings at US$200 is high, and there are examples of their being sold for much more. Prices can vary in other locations, particularly Europe. Like many spiders, the gender can influence price; females live for about 12 years, 3 to 4 times longer than males, making them more expensive. Also females are considered to be more useful for breeding, making demand higher. They are hardy, relatively fast-growing spiders that are generally fed crickets, but can take on anything from a common fruit fly when spiderlings, to a new-born (pinky) mouse or anole when adults. They measure between 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) in legspan when fully grown. In captivity, humid environments with temperatures between 18 to 24 °C (64 to 75 °F) and a humidity level of 75 to 85% are preferred.

Conservation

P. metallica is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. The primary threat to the species’ survival is habitat degradation and loss to logging and firewood harvesting. Amplifying the severity of this threat is the extremely limited range of P. metallica. Another threat identified by IUCN assessors is specimen collection for the pet trade.

The species’ numbers are not known, but the combination of its small natural range and the threats in that area indicates a declining population trend.

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