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Sun, Wind Scorpions aka Solufigids

by Martin Overton


SolupigidEremobates gladiolus


Family Eremobatidae - Eremobatid Windscorpions
Order Solpugida - Sun or Wind Scorpions

Hardly anything is known about the six species that are known from the south Okanagan (British Columbia, Canada) - in fact, three of these species have been discovered only recently and have not yet received official, scientific names. Knowledge of invertebrate ranges and status is poor, and new, intensive surveys are needed to further clarify the status of many of these animals.

Distinguishing features
Despite their common name, Sun Scorpions are not scorpions and shun the sunlight, preferring to hunt at night. They are also called wind scorpions because they appear to run as fast as the wind. They are sometimes called sunspiders after their sunny desert habitat. There are almost 120 species in North America out of 800 to 900 worldwide. Most North American windscorpions belong the Eremobatid Wind Scorpion Family.

 These creatures are also found throughout Sothern Africa, where they are commonly called Camel Spiders.

The Eremobatid family consists of medium-sized arachnids (15-45 mm long) are mostly brownish or yellowish and oftenAmmotrechnidae hairy. They differ from the only other North American family, Ammotrechnidae, in having a straight front of the head and 1 or 2 claws on the first pair of legs, rather than a rounded or pointed head and no claws.


Wind Scorpions, including Sun Scorpions (Eremobates gladiolus) are easily recognized by the pair of large, pincerlike chelicerae on the head in front of the mouth and by the slight, waistlike constriction near the middle of the body. Unlike the broadly joined cephalothorax and abdomen of scorpions, windscorpions have 3 distinct body regions - a segmented cephalothoracic area with 2 eyes at the front margin, a 3-segmented thorax, and a 10-segmented abdomen.

The chelicerae are used independently of each other to chew food - one pair holds the prey, while the other cuts it. The long, slender pedipalps do not have pincers and are used to scoop up water and bring it to the mouth. The first pair of legs are longer than the others and function in conjunction with the pedipalps as feelers. The other 3 pairs of legs are used for walking.

Additionally, specialists identify this order by minute, T-shaped organs on the hind pairs of legs.

Distribution
British Columbia
In British Columbia, Sun Scorpions are apparently restricted to the south Okanagan Valley.

North America
No information is available at this time.

Africa
South Africa.

Habitat

Sun Scorpions live in sandy, dry areas, hiding under stones or in shallow burrows during the day.

Why is it endangered?
Rare invertebrates of the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys such as this species are threatened not by direct exploitation, but by loss or degradation of their habitats. They are at risk because their ecosystems are at risk.

The grasslands of the southern interior of the province are a valuable agricultural resource, and their rich soils have been ploughed and irrigated to produce tree fruits, grapes, and vegetables. Pesticide use has probably had a great impact on native insects living in around agricultural areas. As well, heavy grazing has altered the plant composition of grasslands, changing the invertebrate communities.

The massive diversity of invertebrate species in British Columbia makes it very difficult for entomologists to do a literature or collection survey to determine which species are endangered or threatened. Specialized, detailed surveys will be required for almost every species that is suspected of being endangered. Despite a general ignorance about invertebrate distribution, information is known about a number of species that are confined to threatened habitats of very limited extent in the Thompson-Okanagan valleys.

Biology
Females lay about 50 eggs in subterranean burrows, then stand guard over the eggs and young for up to several weeks until the young molt for the first time.

Adult Sun Scorpions usually live only a few months.

They use their jaws to capture and crush their invertebrate prey. They prey on insects and small vertebrates, including lizards.

Sources of more information
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, 1980, p. 935

Portions: Copyright 1995 by the Royal British Columbia Museum.


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