family theraphosidae

Chinese bird spider

Chinese bird spider is an English name given to several species of old-world tarantulas which are found in the People's Republic of China and Vietnam. The spider, also known in English as the earth tiger, is currently classified in the genus Haplopelma. Previously, different species have been variously classified as Ornithoctonus huwena ,(虎紋捕鳥蛛 hǔ wén bǔ nǐao zhū, tiger striped bird capturing spider), Selenocosmia huwena, and Haplopelma hainanum ("Hai nan" refers to Hainan Island). The binomial name Haplopelma schmidti may turn out to have precedence; the latter name is used for a spider found in Vietnam that may in fact belong to the same species. This article treats H. schmidti as a separate species.

The Chinese bird spider is a fairly large specimen, with a typical legspan of up to 8" (20 cm). It thrives in the tropical rain forests of southern China and Vietnam, where it builds and lives in burrows up to several feet deep, emerging to capture food. The bird spider preys on numerous small insects and other creatures, such as cockroaches, crickets, and mice.

The Chinese bird spider is a rather aggressive species, one that will not hesitate to bite humans if disturbed. Its venom is the subject of much toxicology research, and while the effects of this spider's bite on man is not well-documented, it is frequently lethal in small doses to laboratory animals such as mice and rats. As a result, it is generally regarded as a highly venomous specimen.The venom itself is a rather complex neurotoxin, containing numerous compounds capable of blocking neurotransmitters. (See also: Spiders having medically significant venom.)

There are several different species of this spider:

  • H. huwenum, the golden earth tiger, is primarily found in mainland China (in Guangxi province). This spider is golden-brown in color with transverse black stripes.
  • H. hainanum, the black earth tiger, is primarily found on Hainan Island, off the southeastern coast of China. As the name suggests, this spider's coloration ranges from dark brown to black.
  • H. schmidti is found in Vietnam. Haplopelma schmidti has transverse black and red stripes, i.e., "tiger stripes."

All three spiders (like tarantulas in general) are frequently kept by collectors and as pets; though the Chinese bird spiders have a reputation in the pet trade for being difficult to care for.

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