The sapphire ornamental tarantula, also known as Poecilotheria metallica, is a fast-growing Indian arboreal spider that has a distinct blue-black coloration, with neon yellow banding on the knees. It is native to a small area of forest within the Andhra Pradesh state of India, and experiences dramatic seasonal changes throughout the year, characterized by high daily temperatures exceeding 90°F and heavy monsoons. The Poecilotheria genus, including P. metallica, is under extreme threat of extinction due to deforestation, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). P. metallica is classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Females typically live for 11 to 12 years, or up to 15 years in rare instances, while males live for 3 to 4 years. The spider’s venom is considered medically significant and may cause intense pain, although there has never been a recorded human death from its bite. The vast majority of bites are “dry bites,” where no venom is injected into the handler, but the mechanical effects of the bite can still be worrisome. The venom may produce a heart-rate increase followed by sweating, headache, stinging, cramping, or swelling, and effects can last for up to a week.
Like many other tarantulas with blue hair, the striking and vivid colors of the Poecilotheria metallica species are produced by quasi-periodic perforated multilayer nanostructures. These structural colors are highly iridescent and can change color when viewed from different angles. However, some blue tarantulas have hairs with a unique “flower-like” structure that helps to reduce iridescence. Interestingly, many tarantulas express almost the full range of opsins found in other colorful spiders with color vision, suggesting that the blue colors could play a role in mate-choice or contests for mates. The Poecilotheria metallica is also known by several common names, including the Gooty sapphire ornamental tree spider, Gooty sapphire, and Gooty tarantula. Other common names used to refer to this spider species include metallic tarantula, peacock parachute spider, and peacock tarantula.