DON'T PASS THIS OFF
AS THE KING'S TRUTH!
It's not been proven, and neither big time scientists nor enthusiasts have had a chance to debate it or test it. So, at the moment it's largely just a lot of hot air. The only reasons we present it are ...
Use lots of qualifiers if you quote this...
The first two suggestions above are preferable because they place the blame firmly where it belongs (with yours truly), and absolves you of all culpability beyond merely repeating an unproven hypothesis.
While this really doesn't prove much, there is an interesting correlation at work here. Compare the fangs with almost any other appendage on a tarantula, a leg for instance. Legs are seldom injured by a caged tarantula.
Fangs, on the other hand (no pun intended), are used as shovels and trowels, pick axes, pitons, sabers, battle axes, blenders, hypodermic needles, even love handles! Of all the appendages possessed by a tarantula, the fangs see the most wear and tear, the greatest mechanical stresses, and the most abuse.
Now here is where the story gets a little muddy. While almost every tarantula that has trouble molting has trouble withdrawing one or more of its legs from the old exoskeleton, we have no really good idea of how many times the legs caused the problem, or if the problem wasn't caused by some other primary issue with the stuck leg being a secondary issue.
For instance, if a tarantula suffers a stroke in the midst of a molt (are strokes even possible in tarantulas?), it wouldn't be able to withdraw one or more legs from the old exoskeleton. But, how would we know this? From our ignorant perspective it would APPEAR as though the tarantula had trouble molting because of stuck legs, but the primary cause would have been the invisible stroke.
We may pride ourselves as knowing a lot about these creatures, but OUR IGNORANCE IS STAGGERING.
HELP! HELP! MY TARANTULA JUST MOLTED AND NOW IT DOESN'T HAVE ANY FANGS!
NOTE THAT THIS CONDITION IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH PALE COLORED (E.G., WHITE, GRAY, PINK, OR RED) FANGS WHICH ARE NORMAL FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME AFTER A MOLT.
This is not an uncommon experience among captive tarantulas. It may be represented by a wide spectrum of deformed, damaged fangs up to and including short stubs or no fangs remnants at all. No one is sure why it happens, but we have a working hypothesis. (But, read the sidebar!)
Since the fangs are used for close-in, hand-to-hand combat with food/prey, they're also the most heavily chitinized appendages in the tarantula's body. It's not too much of a leap of intellect to assume that because of that, they also take the longest time to fully harden after a molt.
If you feed your tarantula too soon after a molt, it's possible that the act of killing and chewing their food damages the internal, "un-set" core of the new fang. But, because it's internal, we can't see any signs of damage. The next time that the tarantula molts, this damaged/bruised/scarred tissue is unable to produce another outer layer of the exoskeleton, and when the older one is cast off, all that's left in place of fangs may be two small stubs. (See Tender Tootsies for an additional comment.)
In order to regenerate the missing fangs the tarantula must experience at least one more molt, possibly a second. If it lives that long.
But, if it's true the defense against it is obvious: DON'T START FEEDING SO QUICKLY AFTER A MOLT! In the past the suggestion was that you should wait a week to 10 days before feeding. Now, we propose a much more conservative approach.
"Why do we try feeding them so soon?" The answer is probably that, being homeothermic creatures, WE require comparatively huge amounts of food to maintain an inordinately high metabolic rate and body temperature. We're way out there on the right end of the spectrum, the worst of the food/heat wasters!
We literally plan our lives around our meals. We make weekly pilgrimages to the grocery store to stock up our larder. We pack lunches to school or work. We pack candy bars and snacks when we go on a Sunday day trip. We eat three, four, or five times daily. It's worse than a religion, even worse than an obsession. It's a physiologically mandated addiction acquired through a quarter billion years of evolution! And because this is so much a part of our every fiber, we nod sagely as we pontificate about it, then promptly "lay rubber" to the frig to stoke up again.
And, because eating vast amounts of food in order to maintain such a high metabolic rate has been central to almost our every movement and thought throughout the decades of our lives, without thinking we automatically assume the principle to hold for our tarantulas as well. We are unable to wrap our minds around the concept that there might be animals that operate much, MUCH, MUCH more efficiently than we. Creatures that don't need to eat anywhere near as soon, as often, or as much as we.
So, we feed our tarantulas as though they were canaries, hamsters ... OR HUMANS!
"But, aren't they going to starve to death, the poor dears?" you cry!
A healthy tarantula can go weeks or months without food, even a year or more. Remember the Theraphosa blondi of a few paragraphs above? The record seems to be something in excess of 3 years for a Chilean rose (Grammostola rosea). Even a very young baby can go without food for several weeks, and big, old, obese females can survive seemingly forever! (Although we don't want you testing this!)
Even if we're wrong with this hypothesis, there's nothing wrong with backing off the gravy train a little. Nothing bad is going to happen if you're more conservative about your feeding schedule after a molt. But, if I'm right, it's going to save you a lot of extra, icky work (see below), if not a valuable and valued pet.
You need to supply your tarantula with food that doesn't require mastication. It goes on a baby food diet. While all sorts of weird systems have been proposed, some including puree of cricket and fortified additives, we prefer a more direct, "quick and dirty" technique.
Note that it isn't necessary to squish out the cricket's innards, or otherwise manipulate or puree the cricket. The tarantula will eventually learn to merely regurgitate digestive fluids onto the cricket carcass, and imbibe the resulting cocktail.
The good news is that if you can get the tarantula to eat even a little, the prognosis for recovery is very good. Do not be too surprised if the tarantula molts again much sooner than expected. This is a normal mechanism employed by tarantulas to speed the healing process up a bit.
Do not fail to place the cuticle scissors and the forceps in your "Kit" as explained in TKG3 on page 205.
And the rubber gloves? They're for those of you who are faint of heart, weak of stomach, or who simply don't like the idea of touching a cricket, beheaded or otherwise!
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Copyright © 2013-April-03, Stanley A. Schultz.
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This page was initially created on 2013-April-03.
The last revision occurred on 2013-July-03.