WHIP SPIDERS CONTINUED…
Whip spiders, like all arachnids, have to moult their exoskeletons regularly during their development. I was once especially lucky to get some pretty amazing photographs of Bob very soon after moulting. I was just doing my usual late evening checks of all my animals when I found the scene below:
What you are looking at in the above picture is Bob’s empty exoskeleton (exuvia) hanging from the mesh roof of his & Kate’s enclosure, with Bob himself being the very pale white shape behind and to the left of the exuvia! After moulting a whip spider’s brand new exoskeleton is very soft & extremely pale in colour and they hang upside down for a time to allow it to begin the process of drying out. Here is Bob photographed VERY soon after moulting, looking quite amazing as you can see!!
Newly moulted whip spiders certainly stand out from those of normal appearance as you can see here!
During the drying out process the colouration of a whip scorpion’s new exoskeleton changes dramatically, as it goes from the extremely pale colour above to their normal colouration. This next picture is one of a female taken just a couple of hours after her most recent moult:
As you can see she looked more like an alien than usual, amazing! Sadly I didn’t get a picture of Bob at this same stage as it would have meant staying up into the early hours of the morning! When I looked in on Bob the morning after he’d moulted, just eight hours after the photo of him looking white was taken, his colouration had changed dramatically as you can see here!
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that they look pretty amazing during this drying out process, with their bizarre mixture of greens and blues!! Just 36 hours on from when I found Bob moulted his colouration was pretty much back to normal as you can see here:
The moulted exuvia itself is an incredible structure as it looks so alive despite being just an empty ‘shell’! Here is Bob’s exuvia with the pedipalps (pincers) fully open:
They always manage to leave the exuvia completely in one piece following moulting, which in itself is quite incredible considering the complex structures which they have to pull out of their old body during the moulting process! The pictures below are of Kate’s exuvia with the first showing the ‘head’ (carapace) of the exuvia closed, the second picture showing it opened and the third showing the underside of the exuvia:
As you can see it is really quite a remarkable structure and it is preserved perfectly. Taking a closer look at the exuvia once the pedipalps have been opened you can see clearly the very sharp spines which are used in catching their live prey:
Whilst whip spiders are amazing predators and may look incredibly fearsome they really aren’t at all!! I handle these very regularly without any concern at all about being injured, as unlike scorpions they are not venomous and are non-aggressive. I also regularly allow children to handle them as demonstrated here by 8-year old Ethan at his birthday party and 4-year old James at Sunbeams Pre-school in Calne!
Tailless whip scorpions really are the most incredible creatures and I hope the information within these pages has helped you to feel the same was as I do about them!