False Spiders, Sun Scorpions and Wind Scorpions

(The Solifugae)

Introduction

Like all arachnids, the Solifugids have eight legs, and their body is in two parts, a 'prosoma' equivalent to a thorax and an 'opisthosoma' or abdomen. Like scorpions, but unlike spiders, Solifugids have no narrow waste or 'pedicel'. Their chelicerae are extremely powerful, and are perhaps the most formidable jaws in the terrestrial animal kingdom in relationship to the size of the animal carrying them. They are not venomous but are fast and powerful. Their pedipals do not end in a claw but in a suctorial organ and their first pair of legs are long and thin and are not used for walking but are used as feeler like an insect uses its antennae, they are therefore referred to in some places as being 'antennaeform'. Their 4th pair of legs possess 5 (3 in the Hexisopodidae) 'malleoli' or 'racquet organs'. Their bodies and legs are hairy, they are generally 1-5 cms long (though Galeodes arabs often looks to be 12cm or more long when its legs are taken into consideration, and mostly uniform in color, yellow, brown or black, though a few are patterned. They have a well developed tracheal system which helps them get the oxygen they need for their extremely active lives. They live predominantly in hot dry desert like areas, there are only 6 species in Europe and they all live in the Southern Europe only. They can stridulate (make a noise) by rubbing together a piar of horny ridges on the insides of their chelicerae.

 

Ecology

The Solifigidae are mostly nocturnal animals. They live in burrows which they dig mostly with there 2nd pair of legs, which are the 1st pair of walking legs remember. Some species use one burrow for several weeks or even months in the breeding season (i.e. Galeodes arenoides) while others make a new burrow each night (i.e. Eremobates formicaria).

All the Solifugidae are predators, most species will eat anything, for the larger species this includes mice and even lizards. J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson records how during the 2nd world war his troop corporal kept one in a tin on the top of their tank and fed it almost entirely on scorpions. However some species are more specialised, Solpuga sericea and Solpuga lineata burrow into the soil in order to feed on termites while a Californian species of the genera Eremobates enters bees hives and feeds on the bees and Eremobates pallipes from Colarado is suspected of hunting 'bedbugs'. Though sight is an important means of dectecting prey for some species of Galeodes, it is obviously not that important for the majority of nocturnal species or for those species which are blind. They use their large chelicerae not only to crush their prey, but also to scoop water into their mouths when they are drinking.

Males are smaller and lighter than females, but have longer legs. The highly carnivorous females have no qualms about eating the male after mating if he is too slow in making his escape. Because of this aggressiveness of the females the males first act in preparing to mate is to lull the female into a state of lethargy by stroking her. Once she is suitably docile he picks her up in his chelicerae and carries her for a while. Next he lays her on her side and awakens her sexually by stroking the underside of her abdomen. In most species sperm transfer involves the male depositing a spermatophore on the ground and then charging his pedipalps with sperm and using them to inseminate her. However in the Eremobatidae sperm transfer occurs directly from the males genitalia to the females.

Up to about 200 eggs are produced in the larger species, less in the smaller ones. the eggs take varying amounts of time to hatch from1-2 days in Galeodes sp. to 21-28 days in Eremobates durangonus The first instar larvae (sometimes called the the first 'stadium') is a non-moving embryo like creature, it later moults into a more active aniaml which looks like a small Solifugidae. In some species of Galeodes the female is known to stays and guard the eggs and the non-moving larval stage.

Taxonomy

The Solifugidae are divided into 10 families.

Phyllum = Arthropoda

Class = Arachnida

Subclass/Order = Solifugidae
Family = Eremobatidae
Family = Ammotrechidae
Family = Eromidae
Family = Rhagodidae
Family = Galeodidae
Family = Hexispodidae
Family = Solpugidae
Family = Daeiidae
Family = Karshiidae
Family = Melanoblossiidae

 

 

 

Book Reviews


The Biology of Camel Spiders (Arachnida Solifugae), by Fred Punzo

Soliphugids on the Web


Solifugae section of the Arachnology website
Order Solifugae
Soliphugids at California Academy of Sciences
 

 

 

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