These truly remarkable animals are known by two interchangeable common names, WHIP SPIDERS and TAILLESS WHIP SCORPIONS, and they are probably my favourite group of arachnids in the world! Whilst they are arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, they are neither true spiders or true scorpions but a distinct group known as the amblypygids. This particular species is native to Tanzania in east Africa. The pictures below are of my adult pair named Bob and Kate!
Their pedipalps or 'pincers' are of a very different structure to those of scorpions, although like scorpions they are still used to catch prey and are covered in sharp spines as you can see above.
When a whip spider is at rest, as in the pictures above, these pedipalps are folded in on themselves and are a bit like arms fully bent at the elbow. When the whip spider is defending itself, hunting or communicating with other whip spiders these pedipalps will sometimes be opened up as in the pictures below:
You can easily tell males from females in this particular species of Tanzanian tailless whip scorpion because the males have much longer pedipalps. In the pictures below Bob the male is on the left, with pedipalps which extend well beyond the first 'knee' joint of the first pair of walking legs, whereas Kate's (on the right) do not extend past the 'knee' joints at all:
You can also see this difference in this picture of the two of them together, again with Bob being on the left hand side:
Whip spiders have very special front legs which are much longer and thinner than the other legs. These front legs are actual special sensory legs and are not used for walking, whereas the other six legs certainly are used for walking (or running when required)! These incredible front legs have lots of sensory receptors so that when they probe around as they walk through their habitat they can detect the tiniest vibrations or movements made by potential prey items before the pedipalps are used to grab them. They are so long that in the picture below not a single one of Bob or Kate's front legs even fits fully into the frame of the picture!
In December 2013 I had the privilege of encountering a different species of whip spider during my amazing trip to the rainforests of Costa Rica and it was absolutely fantastic to witness them hunting in darkness in the wild. Here are a couple doing exactly that, these pictures are taken in total darkness and are only lit up due to the light from my head torch:
Even wild individuals do not demonstrate any signs of aggression to humans and I was able to handle several individuals without any problem at all.
I am very fortunate to have breeding success many times within my own collection and in particular with Bob and Kate; first in February 2011 and then many times until the most recent batch in September 2014, as well as with one of their first babies from February 2011 (named Kate Jr) who had her first babies in February 2014 within a few days of her mum!! When a female whip spider lays her eggs she then carries them on the underside of her abdomen, stuck underneath (and protected by) a thin membrane. Here is Kate carrying eggs soon after they have been produced:
As the eggs develop they darken inside the abdomen and end up looking like this:
When Kate had her first babies in February 2011 I didn't get to witness any of the hatching process itself so I was delighted when, on September 12th 2013, I found this scene during my nightly checking rounds! You can just about see the tiny green and pink babies emerging from the underside of Kate's abdomen here - a very exciting moment to catch on camera!
Once the eggs have hatched the tiny babies climb onto their mother's abdomen itself and grip tightly to it. The pictures below are a mixture of those taken in Feb 2011, Sept 2013 & Feb 2014:
What isn't clear from these pictures is that there are actually babies being carried on the underside of the abdomen too, so the number of babies is even greater than it would at first appear to be! I personally think that the babies are absolutely adorable, but no doubt many people would not agree with me about this!!!
For more fantastic pictures of my babies as they grow and develop please click HERE!
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