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How to sex your tarantula

plessey

Well-Known Member
3 Year Member
The only real accurate way to sex a tarantula is by examining the epigynal area located between the anterior book lungs of the tarantulas shed skin but to do this you must first know what you are looking for.



FEMALE ANATOMY


This is a picture of the female sex organs located between the anterior book lungs (top pair).

The spermathecae: Only present in females these are the sacks where the males sperm is stored and come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the species. They can either be a paired structure (as shown in the pic) or a fused structure (usually a singular dome or tombstone shape) and branch off from the uterus externus. Fused spermathecae will start off as a pair and join together over the first few moults. The spermathecae is lined with cuticle and is therefor shed along with the rest of the old skin. Because of this any sperm that has been stored in the spermathecae will be lost after a moult in effect making the female virginal again. There are however two known species in which the females do not possess spermathecae and instead store the sperm in pores in the uterus internus. These are Sickius longibulbi and Encyocratella olivacea.

The uterus externus: Only found in females, this is a transparent tube of skin that connects to the uterus internus at one end and opens out to the gonoslit at the other end. The uterus externus is lined with cuticle like the spermathecae and is the only part of the uterus shed along with the rest of the old skin. It is the first point where the sperm and the eggs come into contact and is the most important feature in determining the sex of a tarantula from its shed skin.

The bursa copulatrix: This is the lower alcove that is formed below the spermathecae and the uterus externus. Again it is also only found in females and is believed to be the area where the sperm and the eggs mix before being deposited into the egg sack .


This drawing shows how all the parts connect with the organs that are not shed during a moult.

A brief description of other features mentioned -

Uterus internus. A short section of tube that connects to the uterus externus at one end and to the oviducts at the other. This along with the oviduct and ovaries is not shed.

Oviduct. Two tubes that lead to the overies.

Ovaries. The female reproductive organs that produce eggs (oocytes)

Slit sensilla. These are internal stress receptors that sense any stresses on the spiders exoskeleton.

Arthordial membrane. These are muscle attachments that define the left and right hand sides of the epigynum.

Gonoslit. This is the opening to the females sexual organs.


Fused spermathecae


another example of paired spermathecae


Encyocratella olivacea - note that although there is no spermathecae there is still a uterus externus and bursa copulatrix.


MALE ANATOMY



The gonopore. This is the opening in the centre of a males epigastric furrow that leads to the testes. The testes are 2 long coiled tubes that produce sperm and also act as sperm ducts.

Accessory organs. Also known as accessory glands , epigastric organs or epigastric glands. The exact function of these organs is unknown but they are said to produce an adhesive liquid that helps the sperm droplet stick to the sperm web. They can be very prominent in some species such as Brachypelma vagans and are often mistaken for paired spermathecae. These accessory glands are wider at the apex than at the base and usually look tree or mushroom shaped as opposed to spermathecae which are wider at the base than at the apex. Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule such as Poecilotheria species and Aphonopelma chalcodes for example where the male accessory glands are wider at the base than at the apex.




Close up of gonopore


You can see the male accessory organs marked in green here and the lips of the gonopore circled in red.


Pic of male accessory organs from a Poecilotheria regalis notice they are wider at the base than at the apex.


PREPARING THE SKIN
Unless you have just retrieved the skin from a freshly moulted spider then the skin will be very dry and brittle making any attempt to sex it almost impossible. The most common method to moisten the skin and make it pliable again is to soak it in water with a drop of washing up liquid however i find it is much easier just to give the skin a good spray with a mister for a few seconds.


Once the skin is pliable take hold of the abdomen skin where it joins the carapace and gently pull down on it so that the skin unwinds then cut off the excess skin below the posterior book lungs.


Next take a needle and run it down the abdomen skin from the pedicel (where the abdomen joins the cephalothorax) to the posterior book lungs and carefully open up the skin.


The skin is now ready to be sexed. Some large spiders can be sexed with the naked eye but most will need some kind of magnification. For most adult spiders anything from x2 - x20 will do and this can be achieved by using hand held lenses or jewellers loupes. For sub adults and large juveniles a higher magnification of x20 - x40 is needed and for this you will need a microscope. Finally for sexing spiderlings you will need an even higher magnification of x40 - x80.

Hope this has been of some help, for more information on sexing tarantulas read Sex determination of immature theraphosid spiders from their cast skins by Kathleen and John Hancock.

Spermathecae Library

Augacephalus breyeri
Augacephalus ezendami
Augacephalus junodi
Ami yupanquii dorsal view and ventral view
Aphonopelma chalcodes
Aphonopelma moderatum
Aphonopelma seemanni
Avicularia purpurea
Avicularia sp. aurantiaca
Avicularia sp. metallica (green form)
Bonnetina rudloffi
Brachypelma albiceps
Brachypelma auratum
Brachypelma baumgarteni
Brachypelma boehmei
Brachypelma emilia
Brachypelma hamorii
Brachypelma klaasi
Brachypelma schroederi
Brachypelma smithi
Brachypelma sp. "epicureanum"
Brachypelma vagans
Brachypelma verdezi
Caribena laeta
Caribena versicolor
Ceratogyrus marshalli
Chilobrachys fimbriatus
Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens
Cyclosternum sp. ledezmae
Cyriocosmus elegans
Cyriocosmus perezmilesi
Cyriopagopus doriae/Ornithoctoninae sp. Borneo (orange fringe thingy)
Cyriopagopus hainanus
Cyriopagopus lividus
Cyriopagopus longipes
Cyriopagopus minax
Cyriopagopus robustus/Ornithoctoninae sp. Malaysia thingy
Davus pentaloris
Encyocratella olivacea (well the uterus externus anyway)
Ephebopus murinus
Euathlus sp. green dorsal view and ventral view
Euathlus sp. red
Euathlus truculentus
Eucratoscelus pachypus
Grammostola pulchra dorsal view and ventral view
Grammostola pulchripes
Haplocosmia himalayana
Harpactira hamiltoni
Harpactira marksi
Harpactira pulchripes
Heteroscodra maculata
Heterothele gabonensis
Holothele sp. Tachira
Homoeomma uruguayense
Hysterocrates sp. Cameroon
Lasiodora parahybana
Monocentropus balfouri
Neoholothele incei
Omothymus schioedtei
Omothymus violaceopes
Ornithoctonus aureotibialis
Ornithoctonus sp. Koh Samui
Orphnaecus sp. Philippines
Pamphobeteus antinous
Pamphobeteus fortis
Pamphobeteus ornatus
Pamphobeteus sp. platyomma
Pamphobeteus ultramarinus
Phlogiellus sp. Koh Samui
Plesiophrictus sp. India
Poecilotheria metallica
Poecilotheria miranda
Poecilotheria ornata
Poecilotheria rufilata
Poecilotheria striata
Psalmopoeus cambridgei
Psalmopoeus irminia
Psalmopoeus pulcher
Psednocnemis brachyramosa
Pterinochilus murinus
Pterinochilus vorax
Selenocosmia peerboomi
Stromatopelma calceatum
Theraphosa apophysis
Thrixopelma pruriens
 
Last edited:

plessey

Well-Known Member
3 Year Member
It's a small hobby. It's not like you can copy and paste someone elses posts from another forum and claim you have permission to do so from the OP without getting caught out. You know what I mean? ;)
 

Gavin van den Berg

Active Member
This is very informative.
I'll be having a molt or two pretty soon so will attempt to determine the sex of my T's for the first time.
I'm very excited at this prospect.
 

amberkinn

New Member
This is an awesome post, can't wait until my next molt. When I saw the image of the needle holding open the tarantula's sex organ, though, I thought "Next, your agitated tarantula will flick hairs into your eyeball. But don't worry, if this doesn't agitate your skin or eye quite enough he OR she may or may not decide to bite. But it is all for the good of knowing whether Charlotte is actually a Charles."
 

HungryGhost

Well-Known Member
This is an awesome post, can't wait until my next molt. When I saw the image of the needle holding open the tarantula's sex organ, though, I thought "Next, your agitated tarantula will flick hairs into your eyeball. But don't worry, if this doesn't agitate your skin or eye quite enough he OR she may or may not decide to bite. But it is all for the good of knowing whether Charlotte is actually a Charles."
That's not the tarantula, that's the shed skin.
 

foritxxar

Member
Excellent! Can't wait for my T's first molt with me. I'll just sneak the skin onto my old university and use an unguarded microscope... haha
 

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