Monocentropus balfouri Pocock, 1897, also known as “Socotra island blue baboon”, is a very remarkable bird spider due to its coloration and behavior from Socotra-island, part of the Republic of Yemen. However she’s been linked with baboon spiders, she belongs to the subfamily of the Eumenophorinae and not the Harpactirinae. African bird spiders are commonly given the title of baboon spider, which explains why she carries the name. The species is very popular amongst hobbyists, because of their cuddly appearance and communal capabilities. In 2014 she was even voted the most beautiful bird spider on earth (source). More than 30 spiders have been described, but Atrophothele socotrana and Monocentropus balfouri are the only endemic species from Socotra belonging to the suborder of the Mygalomorphae. Variants in coloration, from red to amber, have been found in 1999 and 2003. However this is very exceptional, it’s the same species slowly transforming into a beauty with colors as seen on the photo.
I. SPECIFIC INFORMATION
Scientific name: Monocentropus balfouri.
Common name: Socotra island blue baboon.
World spider catalog
Type: Terrestrial bird spider. Opportunistic burrower.
Category: Old world tarantula. Not recommended for beginning hobbyists.
Urticating setae: No.
Venom: Spiders would have played a major role in hiding the prophet Mohammed, explaining why the Aboriginals are showing big respect towards our eight-legged friends. They’re, however, not so tolerant for the Monocentropus balfouri. They are convinced that its venom is so strong it can kill a dromedary. Lots of investigation on its toxicity still needs to be done, but it’s very unlikely the venom is that strong. Keep in mind Monocentropus balfouri is an old world tarantula, probably possessing stronger venom than the avarage new world tarantula. Depending the location of the bite and the amount of venom released, this might be a painful experience.
Origin: Socotra, part of the Republic of Yemen. The high degree of endemism on Socotra is a result of complete seclusion, which makes the entire archipelago (Socotra, Abd-al-Kuri, Samha en Darsa) extremely interesting for both biogeographical and evolutionary reasons. Some of the endemic species in the Haghier mountains are probably the remains of ancient fauna and flora, as the location never overflood since Mesozoïcum. Therefore Socotra is listed as World Heritage by Unesco.
Body length: ≤ 6-7cm.
Span width: ≤ 17-18cm.
Behavior: The spider will try to flee at first. She’ll not hesitate to start stridulating in an impressive threat pose or answering persistent provocation with a bite. Females with a cocoon won’t give warning signs, striking faster than you might have expected. Interesting is the fact Monocentropus balfouri can be kept communal. Provide a correct amount of food in order to prevent cannibalism. This semi-social lifestyle is very special for a bird spider. Similar behavior has been observed by Ischnocolinae (Neoholothele spp., Heterothele spp.), Eumenophorinae (Hysterocrates spp.) and some species of the Poecilotheria-genus. Monocentropus balfouri will create a very interesting and beautiful webcomplex, especially when kept communal.
Growth rate: Slow.
Life expectancy: Females become up to 10-14 years old. Males are given a shorter lifetime of 3-4 years.
Accessibility (1/beginner, 10/expert): 5.