Why Do Tarantulas Lose Their Legs?

Tarantulas are able to detach their legs if they feel in danger. For example, if a predator grabs them by the leg, they are able to lose this leg, and scuttle off to safety. 

However it is not just attacks from predators that can make a tarantula lose their legs. Here is a list of possible options…

Moulting Problems

Moulting is one of the most dangerous times for tarantulas. Firstly, the tarantula becomes almost helpless. Their fangs are soft, and their urticating hairs cannot yet be kicked off. Your tarantula wants to get through it’s moult as quickly and easily as possible. There is little worse than getting stuck or delayed part way through.

If a tarantula is moulting, but experiences problems, such as not being able to extract one or more legs from the old skin, then it may choose to drop these legs. This way it can quickly complete the moult and live to see another day. 

Part of the difficulty is that as soon as your tarantula starts to clamber out of its old skin, the fresh new skin will begin to harden. Your tarantula simply can’t risk the new skeleton hardening in the wrong shape. Dropping one or more legs is a quick and easy solution to the issue of getting stuck in the old skin as the new one begins to harden up.

Physical Damage

Tarantulas may lose legs in response to physical damage. For example if a tarantula is handled roughly it may drop a leg. If a leg is accidentally trapped in the lid of the cage your tarantula may choose to lose that leg. It can at least then escape from what seems like a life-and-death situation to the tarantula.

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Some imported tarantulas show one or more missing legs. This can be due to physical difficulties when they are caught in the wild, or rough handling when they are transported around the world to their new home. 

Mating Aggression

Mating can be a tough time for tarantulas – especially adult males. Females have a nasty habit of trying to eat their mate during or after the mating process. 

If a male tarantula is grabbed by his mate then he may well drop a leg or two in the hope that the rest of him can still escape to breed with other females in the future.

It is not uncommon after putting a breeding pair of tarantulas together to find an odd loose leg in the cage the next morning. You will then often then locate your male, minus the appendage, but alive and well. 

Predator Attack

As mentioned, tarantulas may lose their legs in response to being caught by a predator. Note that “predator” doesn’t necessarily have to mean a bird or suchlike in the wild.

If you handle your tarantula roughly they can also lose a leg due to the stress, and the desire to escape from your clutches. 

Is It Safe for Tarantulas to Lose Their Legs?

It is never ideal for a tarantula to lose their legs. Clearly a tarantula that is missing legs is at a disadvantage. Furthermore, a tarantula with missing legs suggests that something has gone badly wrong with their care.

All the same, most tarantulas that lose a leg are perfectly healthy and will go on to live a full and healthy life. It rarely seems to hold back the tarantula in any way. 

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If your tarantula has lost a leg, however, it is wise to check over the spider to ensure no other damage has occured. For example, your tarantula may have lost a leg while mating, but the female could also have bitten him elsewhere on the body. 

Do Tarantulas Regrow Their Legs?

Tarantulas regrow their legs when they moult. They may grow the entire leg back in a single moult, or it may take a few subsequent moults before the leg reaches its original size. All the same, it is fair to say that a tarantula that has lost a leg should certainly regrow it over time. 

Richard Adams

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