Damon diadema

Damon diadema, amblypygi, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion,

One of my favorite arachnids is only kinda-sorta an arachnid. It belongs to the class Arachnida, but is of the order Amblypygi, which is quite an exclusive club consisting only of tailless whip scorpions (otherwise known as whip spiders). Fossils of these things have been found dating all the way back to the Carboniferous period – and guess what – they haven’t changed much. Do you realize how ancient these things are? That’s 141 MILLION years before your average dinosaur set foot on the scene!

Bill Nye

These babies were running around when the most advanced creatures on land were warty newt-lookin’ things. (Not that I have anything against warty newts, it’s just … well, look at them. Not exactly the pinnacle of evolution, eh?) So these amblypygi, with their spindly little legs, managed to hit the genetic lottery, essentially, since their design didn’t really need tweaking. They were perfect just as they were (d’awww). So let’s look at the wee beasties.

amblypygi, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion, arachnid, spider

Ok, ok, take a deep breath, gather your screaming children, and reassure them AND yourself, because guess what – these things are HARMLESS (to humans). I know they look like something out of a Tim Burton nightmare, but they absolutely positively, will NOT hurt you! They do not have venom worth mentioning, their fangs are so tiny they couldn’t even pin-prick you, and those menacing-looking claw kinda pincer looking things (they’re actually called pedipalps, btw) aren’t really strong enough to trap your fingers. So all they can really do is look at you to death.

Now, to assuage your fears even more, let me tell you about what great moms these things are. Like, mom-of-the-year worthy. Really. Females develop their eggs inside of themselves like a normal creature, and then push them out into this little, gelatinous sack that’s carried under their abdomen unlike a normal creature. (Hey, they tried.) Mom carries those eggs around for a couple months until the little darlings burst forth into the world and then cling to her like their lives depend on it – because they do. Mom does all the hunting for the family (with all 30ish kids in tow) and breaks prey into bite-sized pieces for the young. (You don’t want a picture of that part, trust me…) But here’s a picture of a proud momma with her family gathered around:

damon diadema, amblypygi, tarantula, spider

Yeah, ok, it’s still kinda creepy. But, cute, in a … weird way … no? Anyway, anatomically speaking, they are even more awesome. Not only are those little stick legs able to support their wide bodies (amazing in its own right) but they are WICKED fast – when they want to be. 99% of the time they meander along at a snail’s pace, feeling at everything with those extra-long front legs. Those antennaeform legs have chemical sensors and they are able to pick up vibrations as well as chemical “smells” which alert the amblypygi when either predator or prey is nearby. Additionally, these legs are how they communicate with one another. Amblypygi, you see, are COMMUNAL. This is very, very rare in the insect world. The following quote was taken from wikipedia: “Research conducted at Cornell University suggests that mother amblypygids communicate with their young with her anteniform front legs, and the offspring reciprocate both with their mother and siblings. Further, the whip spiders would seek each other out and gather into a group when placed in an unfamiliar environment.” (Again, d’awww!)

Courting and mating rituals are relatively romantic compared to other invertebrates. The male attempts to coax the female into submission through gentle touching and prodding with his antennaeform legs, eventually maneuvering her over his strategically-placed spermatophores, which she then inserts of her own free will. (It sounds more romantic if you’re an amblypygid.) After the female has absorbed the spermatophore, she can carry it within her, dormant, until she molts and releases it, or sends some sort of genetic signal to her reproductive system indicating that the sperm should hop to it. I don’t think anyone quite understands which cues the female’s body looks for to know when to reproduce. But, a few months later, out pop these little angels:

damon diadema, amblypygi, spider, arachnid, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion

This was intended to be more of an informative article than a care sheet, but I will be posting one of those as well. Visit my care sheets page to access it. In the mean time, enjoy a few photos of my very own Damon diadema – “Gloria”. I’ve had Gloria for over 4 years now. I have tried to breed her but the male I purchased was quite aggressive toward her. She was incredibly receptive and even tried to coax HIM into mating when he wouldn’t stop being a brat, but he never did come around. He died before they could ever reproduce and now I have only the lovely Gloria. I am still looking for an adult male so if anyone has one or knows where to find one, PLEASE message me! I would really appreciate it.

Damon diadema, amblypygi, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion,

Damon diadema, amblypygi, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion,

Damon diadema, amblypygi, whip spider, tailless whip scorpion,


2 thoughts on “Damon diadema

  1. Hi! I have wanted one of these guys forever and your site was so informative on how to set up an enclosure.

    I purchased one today at a reptile show and picked the most active of the group. It was a 90° day so I carefully carried it in my tote bag instead of putting it in the car while I explored. I checked on it a few times and it looked great and super active.

    Just got home to put it in the enclosure I have set up and it looks totally dead. I read on some other boards that they will “play dead” but this looks DEAD. Thoughts? Playing dead? Jostling in my bag? I had the cup it was in vertical the entire time and even took a picture of it looking scary to send to my boyfriend before I made the drive home. I put it in the enclosure in hopes that it really is just playing dead and in a few hours I will come home to it looking just as great as it did earlier but any insight would be greatly appreciated

    1. Hi, Mary – I am so sorry that I didn’t see this comment right away. How is he doing today now that it’s two days later? Did he make it?

      If he is still alive, my recommendations would be first and foremost to mist the enclosure with some dechlorinated or bottled water. They tend to get lethargic when dehydrated, and they often aren’t cared for properly before being brought to those shows. Once they’re there, they get jostled around by everyone looking at them and then he spent the day in your tote bag, so I’m sure that caused some stress as well. It’s VERY good that you didn’t leave him in the car, though! You certainly made the right choice there! For future reference, you can usually ask the vendor to hold the animal for you until the end of the show. Just have them write your name on the container once you’ve paid for it, and then they’ll keep it behind the table. You can pick up the animal on your way out when you’re done with the show. That way, it won’t get jostled in your tote bag, and you don’t have to worry about carrying it in any special way so as to limit said jostling. 🙂

      So, anyway, try misting the enclosure once every other day and see if that perks him up. I don’t think most people realize how important humidity is to these guys. If his abdomen is small or thin or shriveled, it could be either hunger or dehydration (or both). But I’d wait about a week before attempting to feed. They stress easily, and after the ride home I’m sure he’s stressed. Even if you put food in there, even if he’s hungry, if he’s stressed he probably isn’t going to eat, unfortunately. So it’s best to give them time to adjust to the new enclosure.

      Try those (water, and time left alone – COMPLETELY alone – in the dark is even better) and let me know how he does. I’ll try to send you an email as well, just in case you forget to check back here. 🙂 I know I always comment on something and then forget to go back to it!

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