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From the pages of 'The British Tarantula Society Journal'

SOLIFUGIDS - CAPTIVE MANAGEMENT & IDENTIFICATION
Vince Hull-Williams


Anatomy.

Solifugids are quite formidable animals. They are known under various names, i.e. Sun Spiders, Camel Spiders, Wind Scorpions etc. They only vaguely resemble true spiders, the differences being the segmented opisthosoma (abdomen) and the massive chelicerae (fangs). The abdomen does NOT possess spinnerets! They have, on the ventral surface, five Raquet organs (malleoli) which presumably function as receptors of some sort (see illustration) not unlike the pectines of a scorpion.

The chelicerae are absolutely enormous in relation to body size. They form powerful pincers which can quite easily snap an adult locust in half.

The legs of solifugids are quite unusual. The first pair are almost vestigial being very weak. They are not legs in the true sense but are rather tactile organs carried out and in front of the animal almost like antennae. The rest of the legs serve an ambulatory function, i.e. walking and for 4th pair carry the raquet organs on their ventral surface.

The sizes of solifugids vary considerably from 1-5crns in length (Cloudsley-Thompson). They present as yellow or brown whilst two species are black - Rhagodes and Dinorhax, whilst Galeodes arabs are very hairy and bulky (These were the species imported by Ian Wallace, I have examined 30 specimens).

Distribution.

The solifugae are found in tropical and subtropical regions. Six species occur in Europe and these are found in the warmer regions such as Spain and Greece, and the Balkans (Cloudesley-Thompson). Ten families are known and are all old-world (Cloudesley-Thompson) but they are known to occur in the U.S.A.

Behaviour.

These animals like it hot! They inhabit inhospitable deserts, especially neglected regions and they avoid FERTILE AREAS. They are known to burrow but the female usually scrapes a circle in the sand (Pocock 1898). All species appear similar in these habits (Turner 1916).

Feeding.

According to Cloudesley-Thompson these animals are voracious and, having kept these over a number of years, (I can testify to the truth of that) they eat mice, lizards, scorpions - in fact anything even small birds! The prey is located by vibration on the tactile organs and captured by ambush or stalking. They are NOT venomous.

Captive Management.

I have always kept mine in plastic boxes 12" long x 6" wide x 6" high with DRY sand and an upturned flower pot or rock for cover. The lid MUST be tight because solifugids CAN CLIMB GLASS with suckers on the end of the pedipalps. So do remember this. Leave a small container of water but top this up twice a week. They feed voraciously but may kill and leave their food. Locusts and crickets will suffice. They CANNOT be kept together as cannabalism will result. They need to be kept warm and dry and fed regularly. The best temperature is 80F and try to maintain this throughout the hours of daylight. Solifugids are nocturnal but can still be active during the day. They can also HISS! A stridulating organ is found on the inner surface of the chelicerae and the sound is reminiscent of a hissing snake.

Sexing the Solifugid.

These are not really diamorphic animals except for a few characteristics and the males can be identified by the presence of a whip-like structure on the dorsal surface of the chelicerae (see illustration). These are called the flagellum. His legs are longer, the jaws are thinner and not as strongly toothed as the female.

Conclusion

The recent importation of these lovely and fascinating animals by EIS proved to be, when I examined them, Galeodes arabs from Egypt. I could identify only females but there are some males so a mating could be contemplated. Solifugids do moult but the number of moults and the time to reach adulthood is as yet unknown. I have written only a brief synopsis of the order solifugidae and anyone requiring more detailed information regarding these lovely animals is welcome to write to me.

REFERENCES

Cloudesley-Thompson - Spiders, Scorpions, Centipedes & Mites, Pergammon Press, 1958
- New & Little Known South African Solifugids in South African Museum (Scientific Descriptions)
PURCELL, W.F. - Animals of S.A. Museum Vol.1 Part 3, 1899
SAVOURY THEODORE - Introduction to Arachnology
F. MULLER - Circa 1959
Personal communications T. BENTON, Zoology Dept. Cambridge.

 

Copyright 'The British Tarantula Society', 1996,2007


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Last Updated: April 04, 2007