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!
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.
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:
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:
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.