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Spiders Alive! Reopens, with Dividend

On Exhibit posts

When Spiders Alive! returns to the Museum this Friday, July 4 —two years after the exhibition’s debut—for some of the featured arachnids, it won’t be a question of coming back. As it turns out, they never left—and some have even multiplied. 

After the first exhibition ended in December 2012, several species stayed on to live in the Museum’s behind-the-scenes facility. Among the resident animals: 16 rose-haired tarantulas, seven emperor scorpions, five ornamental tarantulas, five desert hairy scorpions, three giant vinegaroons, three Southern house spiders, and two trapdoor spiders. (One of the rose-haired tarantulas, Heather, is currently featured in The Power of Poison. “She’s particularly pretty,” says Hazel Davies, associate director of live exhibits. “We like her coloration.”)

Chilean Rose Tarantula (Poison)

See a live Chilean rose tarantula in The Power of Poison. Its venom may prove to be a key ingredient in human medicines for regulating heartbeat.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


Over time, the group has grown thanks to two broods of emperor scorplings, eight born last July and 16 this March—catching Davies and her team by surprise. Unlike spiders, “scorpions give live birth, so there were no egg sacs to prepare us,” she explains. While youngsters have to be kept apart from adults, emperor scorpions are communal: the scorplets get along as a group, and the adults live peacefully together. 

Emperor Scorpions

Emperor Scorpions 

AMNH/R.Mickens


The two broods each now live in their own separate glass enclosures and, like the adults, are fed a diet of crickets. The mother scorpions and their offspring, as well as a variety of spiders from around the world, will be on view in Gallery 77 on the first floor when Spiders Alive! reopens.

Thanks to the recent additions, visitors also will be able to see emperor scorpions at various stages of development. Newborns are a ghostly white; after birth they crawl up en masse onto their mother’s back, where she keeps her venom-barbed tail poised over them to protect them from predators. That hasn’t been a concern for their human handlers at the Museum, says Davies, because the sting of the emperor scorpion is relatively mild, comparable to a bee sting, and avoidance is the animals’ first line of defense.

Emperor Scorpion

Emperor Scorpion 

AMNH/R. Mickens 


“They’re very mild mannered, these guys,” she explains. “And we know how to handle them without upsetting them.” Over the course of a month or so this spring, the March brood of scorplets came down from their mother’s back, going through successive molts to grow larger and darkening in color each time. By the time visitors see them in the gallery, they’ll be dark brown, changing color toward black like their parents. 

Learn more about the exhibition, Spiders Alive! 

This story is adapted from an article in the Spring 2014 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine. 

Tags: Spiders

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