Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rosie the Riveting

Last week we received a frantic report from Pacific Science Center’s Science Interpretation Department. Rosie, our beloved Chilean Rose-Hair Tarantula was dead! When asked how they knew she was dead, the observer reported that she was upside down, with all eight of her legs sticking straight up into the air. Obviously she must be dead, right? Right?

We’ll share the good news first. Rosie was not dead. She was getting ready to molt. Like other arthropods, tarantulas molt, or shed, their exoskeleton as they grow. As an adult, Rosie will usually molt about once a year. Younger tarantulas molt much more frequently to accommodate their rapid growth.

The Life Sciences department was actually anticipating molting activity from Rosie. We had noticed a few months ago that her color was getting dark and dull, and the hairs on her abdomen were becoming sparser. When tarantulas are ready to molt, they usually prefer to be in a dark, moist, and safe habitat. Because we noticed that Rosie was at this stage, we decided to move her off exhibit to give her more privacy.

This move worked well because it was just at the same time that we were gearing up for the Goosebumps exhibit and we had just acquired a second tarantula that could take her place. So Carmen, the beautiful new tarantula, went out into the Insect Village while Rosie took her time in the back. We had hoped she would molt before the Goosebumps exhibit opened, but she just wasn’t ready yet. When the exhibit opened, we set her up in a new cage and offered her extra heat and an enclosed burrow for whenever she decided she was ready.

Finally the day came that she flipped herself upside down, a telltale sign that a spider is about to molt, but also a possible indication that a spider is dead. This is an extremely delicate and dangerous time for a spider, so we couldn’t probe her to make sure she was alive. All we could do was cross our fingers and hope for the best. Sure enough, when we came in the next morning, we found a beautiful new Rosie. She’s back to her pretty rose color for which she was named, and she’s flush with healthy hair. In fact, she’s so beautiful now, she’s giving Carmen a run for her money.

Come see Rosie and some of her other spooky (but beautiful friends) for a limited time in the Goosebumps exhibit. There’s nothing to be scared of!

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