Tarantulas, like all things with hair, sometimes go bald. And for the Brazilian whiteknee tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata), the baldness starts with the butt.
On Thursday (August 6), entomologist Gwen Pearson tweeted a picture of what appears. Pearson and her colleagues at the Purdue Insect Zoo at Purdue University in Indiana recently adopted the arachnid-nkkid background from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which caught the spider and hundreds more by a black market pet importer.
The pink rose spider (which zoo officials named “Lil ̵6;Kim” after the rapper who has sporty pink hair) owes nothing to her naked badonkadonk age; according to Pearson, the specimen is less than 2 years old and cannot reach adulthood until the age of 5 years. Rather, Kim’s bald butt is the result of a tarantula’s natural defense mechanism – and evidence of the physical stress that illegal animal trafficking suffers.
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“Back itchy hair is the main protection for South American tarantulas from being bitten,” Pearson told Live Science in an email. “And it’s SUPER itching – – worse than fiberglass. An annoyance to humans, but very serious to small mice or other predators trying to eat a tarantula.”
Although eight-legged Lil ‘Kim arrived at the zoo in a Tupperware container filled too much with paper towels to protect her fragile exoskeleton, the trip was anything but comfortable, Pearson said. Kim launched almost all of her back hair into transit, thus proving spider was under tremendous stress.
Removing spiders from the wild also stresses the environment, Pearson added, and has been linked to species decline – in part because it takes arachnids so long to mature. Despite this, tarantulas are one of the most trafficked animals in the world, Kelly Walker, the old guard at the Cincinnati Zoo and the Ohio Botanical Garden i said Inquirer Cincinnati. (She recently adopted eight spiders from the same smuggled consignment to collect them.)
Upon his return to Purdue, Kim will be part of an effort to increase captive tarantulas to help reduce the strain of wild populations. And luckily, Lil ‘Kim can count on her back hairs to grow fast – however, she will have to grow a whole new layer of leather in process, Pearson said.
“The only way [tarantulas] can replace ‘hair’ is to completely replace their entire skeleton, “Pearson explained.” It is not hair like ours; each hair is a thin extension of their hard outer shell “.
Immature tarantulas like Lil ‘Kim thaw their exotheliums every few months. It may take the arachnid a little extra time to settle into its new habitat at the zoo before it starts to thaw, Pearson said, but Kim’s butt may be shining again with praise from Thanksgiving. And for that, we can all be grateful.
Originally published in Live Science.