How to Determine the Sex of Tarantula Spiders

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Although there are more than 900 species of tarantula, they all share certain physical characteristics that help people distinguish males from females. An observer may sex a tarantula -- that is, determine whether the tarantula is male or female -- by noting, in part, the spider's size, color scheme and molting patterns.

Size Matters

Females tend to be larger than males. They also have larger abdomens than males for reproductive purposes.

Hooking Up

Mature male tarantulas have hooks on their front legs. They use these hooks to restrain a female’s fangs during the mating process. Spiders are venomous, so the hooks prevent the ladies from sinking their fangs into them and killing them in the middle of copulation.

Molting

Speaking of dangerous odds, males tend to have very short life spans. Therefore, if a tarantula molts again after reaching sexual maturity, odds are it's female. A tarantula’s molted skin is called the exuvium. A female’s exuvium has a spermathecae -- or a sac for sperm storage -- in the portion that covers her abdomen.

Silk-Spinning Glands

Male tarantulas have an extra set of silk-spinning glands called epiandrous fusillade. They use this extra set of glands to create a sperm web.

Coloring

Females are the ones that have to attract the males when it comes to mating. Therefore, they tend to have red or orange spots across their backs and abdomens. Males are dull colored, tending to be gray, black or brown.

Photo Credits

  • Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Author

Vivian Gomez contributes to Retailing Today, the Daily Puppy, Paw Nation and other websites. She's covered the New York Comic Con for NonProductive since 2009 and writes about everything from responsible pet ownership to comic books to the manner in which smart phones are changing the way people shop. Gomez received her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Pace University.