Scientific name: Poecilotheria regalis
Diet: Insects - insectivore, also small birds, mammals, reptiles
Food & feeding: Carnivore
Habitats: Tropical dry forest
Conservation status: Not threatened
Relatives: Mexican red-kneed bird-eating spider, black widow spider, imperial scorpion
Description: Like the bird-eating spiders from the New World, this spider is covered in short hairs and has paler hairs around the knee joints. It has two pairs of legs facing forward and two pairs facing backwards - which might help it hang on to the branches that it spends most of its time amongst. It is found in the tree canopy rather than on the ground, which is unusual for such a large spider. The largest ones may have a legspan of 16 cm.
Lifestyle: Like many spiders, this one is an ambush predator that waits for prey to approach, and then leaps on the prey, biting with fangs. They like to live in tree holes, often made by woodpeckers, where they build a silken home web.
Family & friends: Young tiger spiders are quite tolerant of each other and even feed together on prey too large for a single spider.
Keeping in touch: Little is known about tiger spider communication.
Growing up: Males usually mature at between four to six years of age and females a year or two later. After his maturing moult, the male produces a sperm web to transfer the sperm to his palps (two smaller leg-like appendages near his front legs) ready for mating. He advances cautiously towards a female and will court her by drumming on the surface with his palps and if accepted by her, holds her fangs while transferring sperm. In a month or so she lays her eggs in a mass of about 100 which she surrounds with silk. The female carries the egg sac around with her. When the spiderlings hatch they stay with their mother until they have moulted once.
To grow, the spider must undergo a series of moults. At each moult, the old casing (or exoskeleton) splits along the sides of the cephalothorax (front part of the body) and the spider pulls out of it, dragging the legs out. The new exoskeleton is soft at first, allowing the spider to grow, but hardens to a protective layer. The exoskeleton is not as hard as that of an insect and a large spider would be seriously damaged in a fall. Before a moult, spiders will refuse food and become inactive.
Conservation news: There is an international trade in this species as an exotic pet. To control this trade, tiger spiders are now listed under CITES. In the wild they are under threat as a result of their forest home being destroyed for firewood and agriculture.