Wild Aphonopelma in Southern California

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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I took a little walk yesterday and found this girl still had an open burrow. I poured a tiny bit of water on her to get her to come to the entrance. I teased her the rest of the way out by tickling her rump. (My signature move. :) ) She promptly came out and did a U-turn. She had a huge rump akin to a well fed captive. I was too slow to photograph her before she headed back inside. I've been keeping an eye on this burrow since 2002. I can't say it is the same female, but there is a good chance it is. Below is a photo of her at her burrow entrance


I stopped by for another look today and she had sealed up her burrow. This might be sealed up for the year, but I can't say for sure. The nights are cooling off quite a bit, but today it was 87 degrees!


I noticed this little packet of bones outside her entrance. This little bundle of bones is less than half the diameter of a dime. It may be a lizard of the Uta or Sceloporous genus. Unfortunately I couldn't find the skull or I'd have sent the whole thing to lucanidae for reconstruction. :)
 

pinkzebra

Arachnobaron
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Great pics! I'd love to be able to go looking for/studying Ts in their natural environment! It would be interesting to know what those bones are from too. Thanks for sharing!
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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Thank you! I still feel like a little kid every time I see a tarantula in the wild. I'm lucky to live in the midst of them.
 

Crotalus

Arachnoking
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Thanks for posting! Is it eutylenum or something like that (too lazy to check) ?
And a interesting find, them bones.

/Lelle
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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Lelle,

I talked to a few people when I first started finding these. The consensus back then is that it was a problematic species. It had been named Aphonopelma 'eutylenum type'. I know color isn't a species determining characteristic, but they look quite a bit different than Aphonopelma eutylenum. A. eutylenum are typically a uniform rich dark chocolate color. A. 'eutylenum type' has more of a three tone coloration. The legs are brown, the carapace is a light tan coloration, and their rump is a darker brown with reddish orange setae. They are truly beautiful after a fresh molt. I don't know of any work that has formally described them.

-Gilbert
 

Tegenaria

Arachnodemon
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Fantastic to be able to see thse in the wild, so lucky!
BTW, what are the red/brown objects near the bones?Also one at bottom of the pic.
 

lucanidae

Arachnoprince
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Unfortunately I couldn't find the skull or I'd have sent the whole thing to lucanidae for reconstruction.
{D {D Thanks! Haha, I would have loved too!

I think it's cool that the spider chomped that vertebrate.
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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BTW, what are the red/brown objects near the bones?Also one at bottom of the pic.
Those are old sun bleached beetle shells. The newer shells are the typical black of a tenebrionid beetle. The area around their burrows are usually littered with them.

The dirt mound around their burrows are also usually full of old exuvia. Numerous white flecks of dried fecal matter round out the typical burrow debris. I have also found the remains of Anuroctonus pococki scorpions and Bothriocyrtum californicum (California trapdoor spider) mixed in with the other detritus. I once found the remains of a male Aphonopelma in the debris pile at a female's burrow. It was easily identifiable by the tibial spur on one leg.
 

Tegenaria

Arachnodemon
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Those are old sun bleached beetle shells. The newer shells are the typical black of a tenebrionid beetle. The area around their burrows are usually littered with them.

I have also found the remains of Anuroctonus pococki scorpions and Bothriocyrtum californicum (California trapdoor spider) mixed in with the other detritus. I once found the remains of a male Aphonopelma in the debris pile at a female's burrow. It was easily identifiable by the tibial spur on one leg.
Very cool!
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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Took another walk today in the same general area. We found several open burrows. I decided to tickle one out for a couple of photos. It wasn't all that happy to see me. This fellow put on a fair impression of a T. blondi. It flicked hairs several times before I could get a photo taken. These Aphonopelma 'eutylenum type' tarantulas typically raise their rump in the air and spread their chelicerae wide when disturbed. This is the first time I have had one flick hairs.



Habitat
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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Lelle,

In the past I have spotted quite a few slings lining the entrances to burrows. Occasionally the mom will be sitting a few inches lower down in the burrow. Most of the time I see slings the mom is out of sight. It may be that she is down at the bottom guarding the remaining slings. I find discarded egg sacks more often than I see slings. I have even found burrows with several discarded egg sacks from years past.

I have found quite a few small burrows. The smallest burrows I have been able to find for Aphonopelma 'euytlenum type' were about the diameter of a pencil eraser. I don't recall finding any smaller than that in this area. I have tracked the growth of a few of them from that size to the size of an adult burrow. They just keep enlarging the burrow as needed. After a rain there is typically evidence of fresh excavations. The mound of dirt around a burrow is usually piled high after a rain.

The smallest burrow I have ever found was in Payson, Arizona. I lifted a flat rock to see a tiny burrow. It didn't look any larger than three mm. I dribbled a drop of water into it and out popped a tiny sling. It looked like it was at most a second instar tarantula.
 

RottweilExpress

Arachnoprince
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Thanks for sharing and describing your finds. I liked the descriptions of leftovers outside the burrows.
 

dtknow

Arachnoking
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Amazing the slings part! So how long did it take to go from sling to adult? AT what time of year did you see females with the slings in their burrows?

Wherever you go you must go alot and their must be a strong population of tarantulas.
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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I only tracked one tarantula from one inch to about 3.5 to 4.0 inches. It took about three years. That burrow is no longer there. It was situated next to a little gully that overflowed and flooded out when we had record setting rains. The tarantula probably left the burrow during the flooding. It may also have molted into a male and left to go spread its genes. At the time I had little free time and didn't visit it as often when I first found it.

There are plenty of tarantulas in the area. I have a notebook stashed away in storage somewhere with a lot of dates recorded. I haven't logged any of my observations in a long time. Nowadays I just head out with the kids and casually take a peek at a few burrows. I'm not as hard core as I used to be as I don't have as much free time these days. It is also a bit hard to record field notes with a restless baby in tow. :) I probably take a quick thirty minute hike a couple times a month.

G
 
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dtknow

Arachnoking
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Interesting. So it probably takes around 5-7 years for these guys to mature.

Any companion observations of any you have in captivity if you ever collected any? Your photos look pretty similar to the ones we have here(3 tone color etc.)
 

GQ.

Arachnodemon
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I don't have any in captivity. I'd say 5 to 7 years would be good guess as to how long it takes them to mature. I might keep a pair if I ever move out of state. I'm content to see them in the wild for now. They are only a few minutes from home. I think I'll head over there right now! :)
 

padkison

Arachnoangel
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I was out in San Diego and took a hike in the mountains. Looked around for Ts and saw holes in the ground, but had no idea if they were T burrows. Nothing came out when teased. I had no idea what to look for as I haven't done this before.
 
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