Hairy, poisonous, slimey, or scaley – How real “monsters” have a positive impact on our ecosystem.

TARANTULA

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Theraphosidae
CLASSIFICATION: Invertebrate
DIET: Carnivore
SIZE: 5 inches long; leg span: up to 11 inches
AVERAGE LIFESPAN IN THE WILD: Up to 30 years
They are big and hairy but not so scary! Many individuals fear the sight of a tarantula due to their large and hairy bodies and legs. Insects are their main prey but larger tarantulas will hunt frogs, toads, and mice. Tarantulas inject their prey with immobilizing venom, which to us, is weaker than a typical bee sting. Tarantulas are beneficial as they help to keep other critters out of our homes and surroundings.

WEST AFRICAN GABOON VIPER

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Bitis Gabonica Rhinoceros
CLASSIFICATION: Reptile
DIET: Carnivore
SIZE: Weighs more than 45 pounds; length: up to 6 feet
AVERAGE LIFESPAN IN THE WILD: Up to 18 years
Having 2 inch fangs that are the longest of any venomous snake – it’s no wonder this reptile is considered a monster! But because they are extremely slow moving in nature, this viper rarely bites. The Saint Louis Zoo is home to a West African gaboon viper, where you can see the 6 ft snake for yourself! All snakes help to maintain a healthy ecosystem as they are a key link in the food chain, acting as predators and prey.

COMMON VAMPIRE BAT

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Desmodus rotundus
CLASSIFICATION: Mammal
DIET: Carnivore
SIZE: Body: 3.5 inches; wingspan: 7 inches
AVERAGE LIFESPAN IN THE WILD: Up to 9 years
Common vampire bats are the only mammals that can fly, but also the only mammals that have an entire diet of blood! These vampire bats sleep during the day, typically hanging upside down from the tops of caves in complete darkness. At night, common vampire bats will leave to hunt, seeking for sleeping cattle, pigs, birds and horses. The amount of blood taken will not be enough to harm the victim, but the bite could leave disease. Vampire bats have a unique blood thinning chemical in their saliva that we can study and use.

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Learn more about the science behind not so scary “monsters” at Science Spooktacular from October 24th-27th.