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Olive the Tarantula

Olive the tarantula has shed her skin; the first time in over two years. Keeper, Helena Faunch witnessed the proceedings and was able to capture the whole process on camera...

Tarantulas shed their skin periodically in order to grow; their exoskeleton will not stretch, so is replaced by a new one which grows underneath. Youngsters will do this several times a year, whereas adults will moult once a year or less in order to replace any lost limbs or hairs.

Olive the Tarantula

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Olive is a Mexican red kneed tarantula. As the name suggests, this species is native to Mexico where they are ground dwelling and live in burrows beneath the substrate.

Olive was born on 28 January 1999 and at 16 years old she is a fully grown female. She lives in PetWorld at Drusillas and eats a black cricket for her meals approximately once a week.

Moulting

Helena discovered Olive during her morning checks in Petworld when her moult was already underway.photo 5_2.JPG

Like most tarantulas, Olive moulted lying on her back. Whilst moulting, tarantulas are at their most vulnerable so they will often tuck themselves away in a safe place.

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Tarantulas shed their skin in one whole piece including their fangs. This process can take up to 24 hours to complete and the new skin then hardens over the following week; Olive’s moult took approximately 12 hours.

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Prior to the moult the tarantula is likely to stop eating and will only eat again once their new skin has hardened. After the moult, their colours are more pronounced as the fresh new skin replaces the old. 

Olive’s moult started a bit of a trend at the zoo as Olive’s neighbour (a Chilean rose tarantula) moulted the very next day!

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Keeper Sound Bite

Zoo Keeper Helena Faunch commented: “When I saw Olive lying on her back I knew immediately that she was about to shed her skin. Often people think that moulting spiders are dead but when they die, they actually remain upright and tuck their legs in underneath themselves." 

"It was great watching the process in action; I have not seen a tarantula moult before and it was really fascinating.” 

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