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Whilst working in Oman I found many people persecuting, i.e. squashing, camel spiders for fear that one would climb into their bed at night and eat them while they slept.
The notion that camel spiders do this is largely regarded as a fact.

I put the following research together as an environmental memo to try to prove the creature's innocence and save some unnecessary fatalities.
I have to say that on the whole it worked and for many weeks we had a rather large camel spider come to visit us in the mess tent most evenings (seen here on the right) where it just sat doing nothing (enjoying the jokes about its ugly face no doubt). Only one person was still somewhat intimidated by its presence (a rufty tufty ex-para would you believe).

 

Solifugae        Camel Spiders

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and other websites

  I aint 'fraida no spiders    
  Camel Spider

The order Solifugae is a group of arachnids, containing around 900 species. The name derives from Latin, and means those that flee from the sun. The order is also known by the names Solpugida, Solpugides, Solpugae, Galeodea and Mycetophorae. Their common names include camel spider, wind scorpion, and sun spider.Solifugae are nottrue spiders (which are from a different order, Araneae). Like scorpions and harvestmen, they belong to a distinct arachnid order.

Most Solifugae live in tropical or semitropical regions where they inhabit warm and arid habitats, but some species have been known to live in grassland or forest habitats. The most distinctive feature of Solifugae is their large chelicerae. Each of the two chelicerae are composed of two articles forming a powerful pincer; each article bears a variable number of teeth.  Solifugae also have long pedipalps, which function as sense organs similar to insects' antennae and give the appearance of the two extra legs. Pedipalps terminate in eversible adhesive organs.

As indicated by their name, Solifugae are mostly nocturnal, and seek shade during the day. It was this behaviour which led coalition soldiers in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to think these arachnids were attacking them.  In reality, they were merely moving toward the newly available shade provided by the soldiers' presence. The absence of shade sends them away.

   
 

Solifugae        On the menu

Solifugae are carnivorous or omnivorous, with most species feeding on termites, darkling beetles, and other small arthropods; however, solifugae have been videotaped consuming larger prey such as lizards. 

They do not however consume very large prey such as Camels or Humans.  This misconception may have arisen because camel spiders can often be seen on or near large dead animals.  They will eat carrion but they will certainly not have been the cause of the animal’s death.  Camel spiders will also lie in ambush on dead animals such as camels in order to catch their more usual prey.
Prey is located with the pedipalps and killed and cut into pieces by the chelicerae. The prey is then liquefied and the liquid ingested through the pharynx.

   
  Lizard for dinner    
 

Solifugae        Myths

Solifugae are the subject of many myths and exaggerations about their size, speed, behavior, appetite, and lethality. They are not especially large, the biggest having a legspan of perhaps 12 cm (5 inches). They are fast on land compared to other invertebrates, the fastest can run perhaps 10 miles per hour (16 km/h), about as fast as a human sprinting.
Members of this order of Arachnida have no venom, with the possible exception of one species in India and do not spin webs.

   
 

The soldiers in the Aden war are believed to be the perpetrators of most myths regarding camel spiders. The picture on the right creates the impression that these creatures are huge (intentionally so I'm sure).
But looking at the soldier's shirt sleeve it is clear that these two span just 3 or 4 inches each.

In the Middle East, it was once rumored that Solifugae will feed on living human flesh.
The story goes that the creature will inject some anaesthetizing venom into the exposed skin of its sleeping victim, then feed voraciously, leaving the victim to awaken with a gaping wound. 

If you ever hear this story told you will not hear names mentioned.  It will always be “Someone once said that a friend of his…” etc.  Not one person to have allegedly suffered this fate has ever been named.

  Fake Picture    
 

To further banish this rumour, Solifugae do not actually produce such an anaesthetic, in fact they do not produce venom of any kind and have no way of administering it even if they did.  They do not attack prey much larger than themselves unless threatened.  Other stories include tales of them leaping into the air, disemboweling camels, eerie hissing, screaming, and running alongside humvees (army vehicles); all of these tales are false.

Due to their bizarre appearance many people are startled or even afraid of them.  However, the greatest threat they pose to humans is their bite in self-defense when one provokes them. There is no chance of death directly caused by the bite, but due to the strong muscles of their chelicerae, they can produce a proportionately large, ragged wound which is prone to infection.

   
 

Solifugae        Summary

Myth 1: Camel spiders are venomous and can anaesthetise their victims to eat portions of their flesh.
Truth: Camel Spiders are not venomous, produce no anaesthetic and have no means to administer either.
The bite does not cause death directly but the large ragged wound caused by the bite is prone to infection.

Myth 2: A camel spider can move at top speed of 25 miles per hour (40kmph).
Truth: The top speed of a camel spider is about 10 miles per hour (16kmph).

Myth 3: Camel Spiders can grow to the be the size of a dinner plate.
Truth: The biggest camel spiders have a legspan of 12 cm (about 5 inches).

Myth 4: Camel Spiders can jump many feet into the air.
Truth: They can not !

Myth 5: Camel Spiders will attack you.
Truth: Camel spiders like the shade and they don't mind if that shade is provided by a person. If the person moves away then so will the shade and the camel spider will follow. NOTE HERE: These creatures do not want to come into conflict with people, but they are by no means timid. If provoked they will defend themselves against any size provocateur.

Myth 6: Camel Spiders eat the stomachs of camels.
Truth: Most species feed on termites, darkling beetles, and other small arthropods; however, solifugae have been videotaped consuming larger prey such as lizards.
NOTE HERE - Before the days of digital photography and hand held video cameras I personally filmed such an event on cine film (see <Oman_doodlebugger> page for a pic.

Myth 7: Camel spiders are spiders.
Truth: Solifugae are not true spiders (which are from a different order, Araneae). Like scorpions and harvestmen, they belong to a distinct arachnid order. Camel Spiders can grow to the be the size of a dinner plate.
Truth: The biggest camel spiders have a legspan of 12 cm (about 5 inches).

 

Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful) and prefer to leave them alone unless provoked.  But they are vicious predators of smaller animals such as insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds. These hardy desert dwellers boast large, powerful jaws, which can be up to one-third of their body length. They use them to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion. Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims' flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs.

LOVELY CREATURES !!!

   
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