Colombian giant tarantula – Megaphobema robustum

Another species of the tarantula genus Megaphobema we successfully documented in the wild. This species of tarantula is commonly known under the name of Colombian Giant Tarantula or Colombian Red Leg Tarantula. When speaking about common names, the latter is to be preferred since Colombian Giant Tarantula could easily fit into one of Colombia’s many giant tarantulas from the genus Xenesthis. Have a read on Xenesthis immanis or Xenesthis sp. White or sp. Blue – we have all seen and took pictures and valuable information from the field.

The first descriptor and Austrian naturalist and arachnologist Anton Ausserer described the Columbian red-legged bird spider as Lasiodora robusta when it was first described in 1875. British arachnologist Reginald Innes Pocock named the species Megaphobema robusta in 1901. The present name Megaphobema robustum was introduced in 1996 by the Uruguayan arachnologist Fernando Pérez-Miles and has since been consistently applied as the scientific name of the Colombian red-legged bird spider, which is moreover the type species of the genus Megaphobema.

subadult specimen of Megaphobema robustum

The Columbian red-legged tarantula is known to be a skittish species and will attempt to flee or defend itself by bombardment (stripping the stinging hairs and flinging them towards a predator) even in the presence of minor disturbances. In addition, it has another defense strategy that is quite peculiar to tarantulas.

The Colombian red-legged tarantula does not show the typical threatening gesture of this subfamily, in which the spider rises up and raises the pedipalps (transformed extremities in the head area) and the first pair of legs in case of an encounter with possible predators (predators). Instead, the fourth pair of legs is barbed and allows the spider to defend itself with effective kicks with these legs. To do this, it moves up and down and then jerkily extends its legs toward an attacker.

If the threat persists, the spider turns in a circle to confuse the predator, which is reinforced in no small part by the coloring of its legs. In addition, this movement serves to give the hind legs a higher thrust, so that the effectiveness of the kicks is increased

habitat and burrow of Megaphobema robustum

Additional information and video footage is provided in the video down below, starting at 07:29 in case you are not interested in seeing other tarantulas in the wild. The documentation of these giant tarantulas of the genus Megaphobema was possible with help through the tarantula enthusiasts community and again, needs to be mentioned here.

M. robustum is present in the Llanos area of Colombia, maybe extending it’s distribution end into Venezuela – no records are known yet but appears to be possible due to its habitat preference.

The Llanos occupy a lowland that extends mostly east and west. The Llanos are bounded on the west and northwest by the Andes, and on the north by the Venezuelan Coastal Range. The Guiana Highlands are to the southeast, and the Negro-Branco moist forests are to the southwest.

The ecoregion has a tropical savanna climate. Rainfall is highly seasonal, with a rainy season from May to November, and a dry season between December and April. The wettest months are typically June and July. Rainfall varies across the ecoregion, from up to 2500 mm per year in the southwest, 1200 to 1600 mm in Apure State, and 800 to 1200 mm per year in the Llanos of Monagas State in the northeast. Mean annual temperature is 27 °C, and the average monthly temperature varies little throughout the year; the lowest-temperature months (June, July, December, and January) are only 2º cooler than the hottest months

adult female Megaphobema robustum

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Megaphobema robustum is certainly an amazing tarantula that also tarantula enthusiasts love to keep as pets. Luckily, the breeding of this species seems to be quite reasonable, as various breeders among different countries had their success with them. The fact that they live in a tropical lowland forest makes the climate somewhat easy to simulate, hence the better success for this species in captivity – unlike its sister species Megaphobema mesomelas from Costa Rica.

subadult specimen of M. robustum

Additional literature

  • WEINMANN, D. (2001): Verbreitungsgebiet, Klimabedinungen und Mikroklima im Bau der Vogelspinne Megaphobema robustum in Kolumbien (Araneae, Theraphosidae, Theraphosinae). Arthropoda 9(4): 12-15.
  • WEINMANN, D. (2003a): Erkenntnisse zum saisonalen Auftreten und Verhalten adulter Männchen der Vogelspinne Megaphobema robustum (AUSSERER, 1875) in Kolumbien (Araneae, Theraphosidae, Theraphosinae). Arthropoda 11(2): 7-10.
  • WEINMANN, D. (2003b): Populationsuntersuchungen an einer Kolonie der Vogelspinne Megaphobema robustum (AUSSERER, 1873) in Kolumbien (Araneae, Theraphosidae, Theraphosinae). Arthropoda 11(3): 23-30.
  • Gabriel, R. & Longhorn, S. J. (2015). Revised generic placement of Brachypelma embrithes (Chamberlin & Ivie, 1936) and Brachypelma angustum Valerio, 1980, with definition of the taxonomic features for identification of female Sericopelma Ausserer, 1875 (Araneae, Theraphosidae). ZooKeys 526: 75-104. doi:10.3897/zookeys.526.6315

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