Tarantulas, like all furry things, sometimes bald. And for the Brazilian whiteknee Tarantula (Acanthoscurria geniculata), baldness begins in the buttocks.
On Thursday (August 6), entomologist Gwen Pearson tweeted a photo of what it looks like. Pearson and his colleagues at Purdue Insect Zoo at Purdue University in Indiana recently adopted the butt-nekkid arachnid from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which took the spider and hundreds more from a black market pet import.
The pink-rumped spider (zoo officials named “Lil ̵6;Kim” after the rapper with pink hair) does not lend it to his badonkadonk with age; according to Pearson, the specimen is less than 2 years old and may not reach adulthood until he or she is 5. Instead, Kim’s bald bottle is the result of a natural tarantula defense mechanism – and proof of physical stress prohibited by illegal animal trafficking.
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“Narrow butt hair is the main defense for South American tarantula, not biting,” Pearson told Live Science in an email. “And it’s SUPER itchy – – worse than fiberglass. It’s annoying to humans, but very serious for little rats or other predators trying to eat a tarantula.”
Even though eight-foot Lil ’Kim landed at the zoo in a sacred Tupperware container with a paper towel to protect her fragile exoskeleton, the trip was anything but comfortable, Pearson said. Kim kicked almost all of her hair on the trip, proving to spider is under intense stress.
The removal of spiders from the wild also emphasizes the environment, Pearson added, and is linked to the decline of species – in part because arachnids need to be long to mature. Despite this, the tarantulas are one of the most traded animals in the world, Kelli Walker, senior curator at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in Ohio told the Cincinnati Enquirer. (The zoo recently adopted eight spiders from the same smuggled cargo for their collection.)
Back in Purdue, Kim will be part of an effort to breed captive tarantulas to help reduce strain on wild populations. And luckily, Lil ‘Kim can count on her butt hair to grow as soon as possible – however, she will need to grow a whole new layer of skin in the process, Pearson said.
“The only way [tarantulas] ‘hair’ can be replaced to completely replace their entire exoskeleton, “Pearson explains. It’s not like hair; each hair is a thin extension of their hard outer shell. “
Immature tarantulas like Lil ‘Kim dissolve their exoskeletons every few months. The arachnid may take a little extra time to settle into its new zoo home before it can start molting, Pearson said, but Kim’s butt may gloriously hirsute again by Thanksgiving. And for that, we should all be grateful.
Originally published in Live Science.