SOLIFUGAE: Camel Spiders
By: Alek Kanellopoulos
Never has something so scary been seen before... The camel spider is renowned with urban legend and story. Dubbed Solifugae which in Latin means, "One who flees from the sun," they are not actual spiders, but instead are associated with scorpions and harvestmen under Arachnida. They live in many place all over the world, mainly arid and warm. You will most likely find them in the deserts around the world, ranging form Arizona to the Middle East.
*Pardon the crude photo, but besides its drawn format, all labeling is correct.*
Form and Function:
Camel Spiders are greatly specialized for survival in desert and arid habitats. They are mostly nocturnal to avoid the heat, but some species are diurnal. Shade is very important to the survival of desert camel spiders that are active during the day. Their bodies are not made for the direct heat of the sun. The reports of camel spiders charging and pursuing soldiers are likely derived from the animals attempting to take refuge from the sun in their shadows
Like most chelicerates, in particular Aranea and Arachinda, their tagmata consist of cephalothorax and abdomen. They have uniquely large pedipalps that they use generally for sensing their environment and prey capture. They are also very sticky for help with climbing surfaces. They only have two eyes. Many notice, that their chelicera are absolutely HUGE. This makes people think that they have large amounts of venom, but in reality it is because of their LACK of venom. They compensate with large mouthparts for defensive reasons.
Their chelicera have two parts that form together for powerful pincers. They use these pincers to grasp and tear apart their prey: Which includes other arthropods, lizards, snakes, and possibly small mammals. Solifugids typically do not feed on animals larger than themselves, they are very precise with their hunting. Generally they are not prey to many (Except for when Bear Grylls ate one on Man v.s Wild), and are most likely eaten by larger arthropods and quite possibly birds... But I wouldn't mess with one.
In terms of Life cycle, Solifugae undergo around 9 molts to reach full adulthood. Reproduction can involve direct or indirect sperm transfer; when indirect, the male emits a spermatophore on the ground and then inserts it with his chelicerae (Not with the pedipalps with camel spiders) in the female's genital pore. The female then digs a burrow, into which she lays 50 to 200 eggs. She guards the eggs till they hatch. Because the female will not feed during this time, she will try to fatten herself beforehand.
Impact On World/Humanity:
Although, they do not provide any substantial service to humans or other animals, they do contribute to largely to the myth culture and urban legends of today...
Urban Legends and Myths (All False):
- They are extremely aggressive, viscously charging directly towards, and pursuing soldiers.
- Running up to 25 mph whilst making a screaming sound.
- They can grow to be as large as dinner plates.
- They are able to jump several feet in the air.
- They are venomous and can anesthetize their prey while they chow down unnoticed.
- They eat, live in, or lay their eggs in the bellies of camels.
I came across an interesting article in the Journal of Zoology, that discussed coercive behavior among male and female camel spiders when mating. The scientists studied the behavior of two sexually cannibalistic camel spider species to determine coercive traits. The findings were as followed: 1. Males used strength or fast movement to grab a female; 2. Males prevented female counter-attack and escape; 3. Males injured the female during coercive copulations; 4. Females struggled to interrupt mating. The interesting thing is that prior to the coercive mating, the male used courtship behaviors in a way to soothe the female such as tapping or stroking with pedipalps.
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