are characterized by their stocky appearance and
the hairy body and legs. A more technical characteristic
are the fangs that are parallel (pointing backward)
rather than opposite as in other spiders. There
are many other characteristics but these are less
species recognition it is important to know whether
the specimen before you is a male or a female. Females
usually have a larger abdomen but that is not always
a fail-safe character.
male Tarantula species in Belize can be recognized
by the paired tibial spur on the tibia of leg I (front
leg)(see picture to the left). These spurs serve to
immobilize the fangs of the female during courtship.
One very rare species Metriopelma gutzkei,
appears to be lacking these spurs.
of adult males is also related to reproduction.
At the tip of the palps (they really look like a small
pair of legs.) is a structure called the embolus.
It looks a bit like the stinger of a scorpion (picture
to the right) but smaller and not intended to sting.
Instead it is the instrument with which the male deposits
his sperm in the female. The emboli in each Tarantula
species are different and are an important tool in
recognition itself is more difficult. The three
common species in Belize are similar in size and
their color is variable enough to be confusing.
A good field character is the tibia of the 4th
pair of legs. (hindmost legs). In the case of Crassicrus
lamanai, this tibia is distinctly swollen. The picture
to the left shows hind tibia
of a female Citharacanthus
meermani (top) and of a female Crassicrus
lamanai (bottom). Unfortunately, in the male
this distinction is somewhat less obvious.
vagans (Ausserer, 1875)
This is the most
common of the Belizean Tarantulas. The common name
is "red-rump" which refers to the abdomen
being covered in reddish fur which is most noticeable
in freshly molted specimens. They are most common
in disturbed areas and this terrestrial species
is easily found by locating its burrow. A
yucatec Maya name for
this species is "Chiwo' ". There are many
misunderstandings about this species. One of these
is that it is likely to bite horses in the foot,
which then causes the hoof to fall of! In reality
the species is quite harmless. The biggest danger
comes from the abdominal hairs which are quite urticaceous
and can cause itching and swelling. Particularly
nasty when inhaled!
& West, 2000
is smaller than the previous, it is also terrestrial
but prefers forest over open areas. It has only
recently been discovered and named (Reichling
& West, 2000). The species
is named after its discoverer: Jan Meerman. As far
as we know this species is only found in the Cayo
and Stann Creek Districts of Belize. But recently,
Eddy Hijmensen claim to have found this species near the
cave, Poptun, Peten, Guatemala.
species is recognized by the smaller size and brownish
instead of orange abdominal fur. Males (top left)
are more slender with spindly legs and are usually
darker in overall color. Females (right) are stockier
and more "fuzzy".
Hills Butterfly Ranch Citharacanthus
meermani is relatively common, but not quite
as common as Brachypelma
vagans. At higher elevations
such as in the Mountain Pine Ridge Citharacanthus
meermani is the dominant if not only, species.
But at even higher elevation in Southern Belize the species
is replaced by the similar C. livingstoni.
Read more this species in a Las Quevas study.
Schmidt and Weinman, 1996.
The poor picture to the right I took
in 1995 in the southern Cayo District near the Maya
Mountain Divide at an altitude of 760 m. At this
stage the species hadn't even been described yet.
maya. Witt, 1996
This is an arboreal Tarantula. Arboreal Tarantulas
are quite rare in Belize and only two species have
been recorded so far (The second species is P.reduncus, the "Costa Rican Orange Mouth").
This species is described from specimens collected in the Cayo District in Belize. It is certainly
very rare or at least very rarely encountered. It
took 10 years to find my first specimen and I live
next to the type location!
David Ortiz and Eddy Hijmensen recently report to have found this species under rocks near the entrance of the Naj Tunich cave, Poptun, Peten, Guatemala.
Most noticeable feature of this species is the very "hairy" appearance and overall black color. At closer range the species also has reddish hairs on the legs and abdomen.
Reichling & West, 1996.
This is a fairly common species on the lowlands
of Belize. Although it was described as a new species
only recently, the species was already fairly well
know in the pet trade. Illegally (?) exported specimens
had apparently been entering the pet trade for quite
some time and the trade name for the was the "cinnamon".
This common name mostly referred to the female
(left, below). The male
is virtually black and very different in appearance
from the female (right, top). The species is best
recognized by the swollen appearance of the hind
tibia (see pictures above).
Very unusual are the pygmy tarantulas.
These small tarantulas are not "real"
tarantulas but belong to the family Barychelidae.
In many aspects they look like miniature (they
are of a thumbnail size) tarantulas. They live
in similar silk line burrows, only much smaller.
|The burrow openings are
only 1.2 cm (1/2")in diameter, and the spiders
rarely venture out of it. There are 2 species known
in Belize. The one pictured here is as yet undescribed
They are fairly common at the Green
Hills Butterfly Ranch but appear to have a very
small range since they haven't yet been found in apparently
suitable habitats nearby.
common, the spiders are very shy and difficult to
locate and so far only females have been found.