The Wellington Zoo in New Zealand has announced that it has successfully hatched an adorable clutch of 13 Goliath bird-eating tarantulas. The achievement is the first time in 20 years an institution has successfully hatched these animals, which, at full size, are the biggest tarantulas in the world.
The zoo's babies also mark the first time these tarantulas have ever been bred in Australasia, according to the zoo’s team leader of reptiles and invertebrates Dave Laux. After two years of multiple pairings between their resident tarantulas, the zoo reported that it comes as a huge relief that their efforts finally paid off.
The species, Theraphosa blondi, are endemic to the rainforest regions of northern South America including Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, northern Brazil, southern Venezuela, and the Amazon. Goliaths are listed as Not Evaluated by IUCN so the current situation of their wild populations is unknown, but as a hotly sought-after species in the exotic pet trade, it’s likely their numbers could be in some degree of decline.
Video showing Goliath bird-eating tarantulas and their hatchlings provided by Wellington Zoo
At full size, these spiders can reach a leg span around 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), putting them at around the size of the average dinner plate. Imagine facing that in the bath. Though their name implies that out in the wild they’d be knocking back birds left, right, and center, they actually mostly dine on large arthropods, amphibians, insects, and small vertebrates, with birds appearing less commonly on the menu. They’re secretive eaters who will kill their prey before dragging it back to a secluded spot, which is fortunate, as they feed by liquifying the inside of their prey and sucking out the goo. Charming...
The babies are currently said to be around the size of a 10-cent coin and the color of brown mahogany. While a successful hatching, the zoo’s clutch is quite small as the species can see as many as 150 babies in an egg sac. The lifespan of these fascinating creatures varies greatly depending on sex, as while both sexes mature within three to six years, the females can live for 15 to 25 years while the males die soon after maturation.
While these impressive predators might look less than appetizing to arachnophobes, Goliath bird-eaters are considered part of the local cuisine in South America. The tarantulas are prepared by singing off the hairs on their exoskeleton before being roasted in banana leaves, and their flavor has been compared to shrimp.