References And Further Reading 426

Solpugids are usually yellow or brownish in color and rather hairy. The body length varies from 1 to 7 cm, with the largest species having a leg span up to 12 cm. The prosoma and opisthosoma are broadly joined, with the latter being visibly segmented (Fig. 21.1). The most prominent structures are the greatly enlarged, powerful pair of chelicerae which are used to seize, crush, and tear apart food. With the exception of Rhagodes nigrocinctus in India, solpugids are generally believed to lack distinct venom glands and rely primarily on their size and strength to overpower prey. The pedipalps are long and leglike, each ending in an eversible adhesive organ rather than claws. The first pair of legs is modified as slender tactile organs which are held outstretched as the solpugid moves about. Unique, mallet-shaped structures called racquet organs (malleoli) are borne on the underside of the fourth pair of legs in both sexes. They are innervated and function in chemoreception while probing various substrates, presumably to detect chemical cues associated with food and potential mates.

The order Solifugae includes 12 families, approximately 150 genera, and over 900 species worldwide (Punzo, 1998). They occur most commonly in tropical and subtropical deserts in Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, and the Americas. In Africa they also are found in grasslands and forests. They occur in the United States and southern Europe but not in Australia or New Zealand. The 2 major families in North America are the Ammotrechidae and Eremobatidae, together represented by 11 genera and about 120 species. Most of them occur in the western half of the United States. The exception is Ammotrechella stimpsoni, which is found under the bark of termite-infested tree stumps in Florida. For a comprehensive treatment of solpugids, including keys to the families and genera worldwide, see Punzo (1998). For further information on solpugids in the United States, see Muma (1951).

Members of this group are variously known as solpugids, sun spiders, wind spiders, wind scorpions, camel spiders, barrel spiders, false spiders, and romans. Local names in the United States include bulldozer spiders in the Big Bend area of Texas and sand puppies in Wyoming. They also are known by the British terms jerrymander and jerrymunglum. In Mexico they are called mata venado ("deer killer") in the mistaken belief that they are venomous enough to kill large animals. In southern Africa solpugids are called hair cutters and beard cutters in the undocumented belief that females are attracted to the hair of sleeping humans and other animals, which they clip with their chelicerae and carry to their burrows or other retreats to line their nests in preparation for egg laying.

Despite their common names, they do not bear a close resemblance to either spiders or scorpions, although they occur primarily in arid habitats where these other

FIGURE 21.1 Solpugid in desert of southwestern United States. Despite their greatly enlarged pair of chelicerae and formidable appearance, solpugids lack venom glands and are generally harmless to humans. (Photo by Debbie R.. Folkcrts.)

arachnids are found. They are typically nocturnal, hiding during the day under stones and in crevices or burrowing into loose soil. The name "sun spider" refers to some species that are active during the daytime. The name "wind scorpion" reflects their peculiar, rapid movement as they run about the surface of desert sands hunting prey; they give the appearance of being blown across the sand and have been likened by some to tumbleweeds. The name "camel spider" refers to the arch-shaped plate on the dorsum of the prosoma of many species. Solpugids feed primarily on insects, spiders, and scorpions. The larger species, however, also are known to attack and kill small lizards, mice, and birds.

Solpugids will readily attack humans and other animals when provoked. Despite their formidable appearance and aggressive posturing, their bites usually are not serious. However, the larger species can inflict severe wounds with their powerful chelicerae. In one case involving United States military personnel in the Persian Gulf, an individual was bitten on the lip and required 10 stitches to close the wound (Conlon, 1991). The greatest concern is usually preventing secondary infections, which can lead to painful swellings, necrosis of tissues surrounding the bite site, and gangrene.

Allergy Relief

Allergy Relief

Have you ever wondered how to fight allergies? Here are some useful information on allergies and how to relief its effects. This is the most comprehensive report on allergy relief you will ever read.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment