Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Tiny Dancer

On Monday morning, when I was in the bath, Spiderman came to give me the sad news. Little Pirouette, our tiny dancer, had shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to join her sibling Tibia in the great big web in the sky.


We brought her home for my birthday in 2008 and she has been a joy to watch her climb about. She was one of two arboreal spiders (Polychrome being the other) that we own when means that she was a tree dweller not a ground dweller.

 When we first brought her home she was in a small, round fish bowl- like container that contained, among other things, a plastic red apple that she loved sitting on.


Soon she began to outgrow that container and we upcycled an old plastic sweet jar by using a wood burning tool to melt breathing holes into it. In true arboreal fashion, she climbed to the top and hid herself in a mass of webbing for several years.


She was difficult to see, but you could often hear her thumping about as she leapt from top to bottom then climbed back up to leap again. Silly girl. She earned the name Lid Hugger when after a moult Spiderman carefully opened the lid and saw the old skin resting in the hammock web--but where was Pirouette?  Why nestled in the underside of the lid that he had carelessly lifted! If she hadn’t just moulted and been feeling exhausted it would have been a perfect chance to run and escape! Lucky for us, she was a good girl who stayed put until we got the lid back together with the jar.


Pirouette was a Peruvian Pink Toe (Avicularia Avicularia) which is how she earned her ballerina name. Those tiny pink balls on the ends of her feet looked just like ballet slippers to us; the pink hairs on her tiny abdomen like a tutu! A Peruvian Pink Toe and a painting by Degas are virtually indistinguishable. FACT.

A spider

A Degas dancer

So how did she die? We’re really not sure. She was a juvenile when we brought her home based on her moulting patterns of every 6 months for her first three moults with us. After that it moved to one moult a year which is right for an adult spider. We had wondered if she was male--it is very hard to sex a spider, but particularly this type--the three key signs were not clear. She always did keep a little abdomen--often a sign of being male. There were no visible tibial hooks used for holding a female at bay while you deposit your sperm. Her palps had a bulbous quality--but then all her feet did. Those bulbs could have just been the shape of her feet, not sperm pouches.  We always hope for a female spider as they live longer, but judging from what we know about her--she was probably between nine and ten years old. Which is a good life for a spider. If our estimation of age is true, then she was most definitely female as males would not have lived that long.

It was a bit of a mystery finding her today. I kept holding out hope she was just moulting as spiders do not die on their backs. A spider on it’s back is in the process of growing by shedding it’s skin. But as Spiderman gently pointed out--she was found on the floor of her tank and she has never, ever moulted down there. She always lived in a hammock between two branches. She lived, slept, ate and moulted in that web hammock. He thinks she died, fell out of her web hammock and landed on the floor.

Poor baby. I once had a bird who did that. It was too poorly to be on its perch and was found dead at the bottom of the cage with its little bird feet curled around the ladder. We had to bury it with the ladder as we could get the feet unattached.

So the cause of death is a mystery. We’ll need to call Incy Wincy Quincy the spider coroner to come and give us a verdict.

Unless he’s stuck in a bathtub somewhere.

So goodbye to our little pink toed ballerina. We will miss you, my little dancer.

1 comment:

  1. Very sweet obituary. The pictures were so clear, and I could see her better than I ever have in person.

    Also.........now who on earth besides me will remember Quincy? Loved that reference.