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Encyclopedia > Urticating hair

Urticating hairs are one of the primary defense mechanisms used by some tarantulas. This term refers to the barbed hairs that cover the dorsal and posterior surface of the tarantula's abdomen . Many tarantula species will frequently kick hairs off their abdomens, directing them toward potential attackers. These hairs can embed themselves in the other animal's skin or eyes, thus inducing physical irritation. In psychoanalytic theory, a defence mechanism is an unconscious way to protect ones personality from unpleasant thoughts which may otherwise cause anxiety. ... Genera Subfamily Acanthopelminae    Acanthopelma Subfamily Aviculariinae    Avicularia    Ephobopus    Pachistopelma    Psalmopoeus    Tapinauchenius Subfamily Eumenophorinae    Anoploscelus    Batesiella    Citharischius    Encyocrates    Eumenophorus    Hysterocrates    Loxomphalia    Loxoptygus    Monocentropus    Myostola    Phoneyusa    Polyspina Subfamily Harpactirinae    Ceratogyrus    Coelogenium    Eucratoscelus    Harpactira    Pterinochilus Subfamily Ischnocolinae    Chaetopelma    Cratorrhagus    Heterothele    Ischnocolus    Nesiergus    Plesiophrictus/Neoplesiophrictus Subfamily Ornithoctoninae    Citharognathus    Cyriopagopus    Haplopelma    Lampropelma    Ornithoctonus    Phormingochilus Subfamily...


Development of Urticating Hair

Urticating hairs do not appear at birth but form with each consecutive molt, outwardly presenting themselves around areas of more dark hairs on the upper back part of the abdomen of juveniles, widening from molt to molt, but in elder ages - merging with the main tone of abdominal coloration. Urticating hairs do not cover the entire opisthosoma and are distinct from abdominal hairs.

Types of Urticating Hair

There are six different types of urticating hair known (M. Overton, 2002). They are all different in shape and size.

  • Type I .2 - .6mm
  • Type II .5 - 1.5mm
  • Type III .3 - 1.2mm
  • Type IV .06 - .2mm
  • Type V
  • Type VI

Each type of urticating hair is believed to target different enemies. Defined targets for some hair types are unknown.

Type II is not kicked off by the tarantula. Direct contact is necessary to penetrate an attacker. Tarantulas from genera Avicularia, Pachistopelma and Iridopelma possess Type II hairs.( Toni Hoover, 1997)

Type III urticating hair are most efficient for defence against vertebrates and invertebrates.

Types III and IV are the most irritant to mammalian predators.

Urticating Hair Types Particular To Species

Not all urticating hair types are exhibited by each species of tarantula.

Types I, II, III and IV urticating hairs can be found in the subfamilies Avicularinae and Theraphosinae.

Type I and III urticating hairs are representitive on Lasiodora and Acanthoscurria, excluding Grammostola (exhibits types III and IV). Grammostola The Grammostola is a type of tarantula. ...

Type III urticating hair is typically found on the species of Theraphosa spp., Nhandu spp., Megaphoboema spp., Sericopelma spp., Eupalaestrus spp., Proshapalopus spp., Brachypelma spp., Cyrtopholis spp., Iracema spp. and other genera of subfamily Theraphosinae (Rick West, 2002). Brachypelma is a genus of the family Theraphosidae containing various species of tarantulas. ...

Type V urticating hair is typical of the species of genera Ephebopus. As mentioned earlier is located on the pedipalps. They are much shorter and lighter in contrast with other types of urticating hair. These are easily thrown by the spider into the air (Marshal and Uetz, 1990).

Type VI urticating hair is found in the genera Hemirrhagus (Hemirrhagus (F. Perez-Miles, 1998).

According to Vellard (1936) and Buecherl (1951), generas with the most urticating hairs are Lasiodora, Grammostola and Acanthoscurria.

Defensive Behavior Utilizing Urticating Hairs

New World tarantulas will at the moment of danger, turn toward the attacker and briskly rub their hind legs against the opisthosoma throwing the urticating hairs in the direction of the enemy.

The latest studies suggest urticating hairs from tarantulas present not just a mechanical but a chemical influence on the skin and mucous membranes.

The cloud of small hairs will get into the mucous membrane of small mammals and cause oedema, difficulty in breathing which can be fatal.

Reaction and the degree of irritation to a defensive urticating hair barrage can vary tremendously, based on the species in question.

Some, such as those of the Chilean rose hair (Grammastola rosea) and the pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia), are fairly mild and innocuous to humans. The Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola rosea) is probably one of the most common species of tarantula kept in the tarantula keeping hobby today. ... Binomial name Avicularia avicularia Linnaeus, 1758 The Pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia) is native to South America and the southern Caribbean. ...

Others, such as those of the Brazilian giant white knee tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata), are moderately irritating. Acanthoscurria geniculata, or the Brazilian giant white knee tarantula, is a burrowing terrestrial species. ...

Still others, such as the Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa blondi), are far more severe. These hairs can result in painful rashes, and have been likened to sharp shards of fiberglass. Binomial name Theraphosa blondi Latreille, 1804 Theres something about spiders that gives most people the creeps, instilling a sense of fear and loathing upon seeing one. ...

After a defensive maneuver, an urticating hair lobbing tarantula will have a bald spot on its abdominal region.

Human Reactions To Urticating Hair Contact

In humans a defensive cloud of urticating hairs can cause allergic skin reactions which can manifest itself as inflammation, rash and itching. The reactions can last for several hours or days. A chemical influence upon the skin and mucous membranes explains the different reactions of people to urticating hairs (Rick West, 2002). The mucous membranes (or mucosae; singular: mucosa) are linings of ectodermic origin, covered in epithelium, and are involved in absorption and secretion. ...

It seems likely the hairs cause an accumulative reaction in people.

A solution of 2-2,5% hydrocortisone cream applied to the affected area may help relieve the symptoms. Hydrocortisone is a synthetic corticosteroid drug which may be given by injection or by topical application. ...

A more serious consequence is urticating hair in the eyes. In this case it is necessary to immediately wash the eye thoroughly with copious amounts of cold water and see an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine which deals with the diseases of the eye and their treatment. ...

Urticating Hair As Territorial Markings

Urticating hair is not just thrown at an enemy as a first line defence. It is also used as an indication of territory. It can be found on and around the burrow entrance and in webbing for protection (for example, some of Theraphosinae subfamily species include these hairs in cocoon silk).

Urticating hair can also be found protecting tarantula egg sacs (Avicularia spp. and Theraphosa blondi respectively). This is thought to discourage fly larvae from consuming their eggs and young. The Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, Ceratitis capitata Dance fly male Empis tesselata The flesh-fly, Sarcophaga carnaria As defined by entomologists, a fly (plural flies) is any species of insect of the order Diptera. ...



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