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A Camel Spider from Afghanistan

BugsInTheNews is a VIEWER-PARTICIPANT WEBSITE. This article by Jerry Cates and Jason Cates,  first published on 21 August 2011, was revised last on 7 July 2012. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 12:08(01)

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Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, frontodorsolateral view --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

001. Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, frontodorsolateral habitus --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

My nephew Jason, who is presently serving with the U.S. military, informed me late in 2010 that he was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in the early part of 2011.

We share a lot of common interests, particularly in the natural sciences, and he promised that — after arriving in the Middle East — he’d take photos of the native fauna to be posted on BugsInTheNews.

The very idea that he might make good on that promise brought back a host of enjoyable memories.

Some 47 years earlier, while serving with the U.S.A.F. and later as a civilian on contract with the Dept. of Defense, I’d spent several years in Vietnam analyzing reconnaissance imagery of the landscape. As an ancillary to that work, I also studied the insects, spiders, snakes and botanicals native to that small  but pivotal part of Southeast Asia. Jason’s description of the difficult conditions he lives and works under in Afghanistan have a surprisingly familiar ring. And, yes, they make me envious…

On 21 July 2011 Jason, true to his word, sent me several excellent photographs of a camel spider he’d found at his base in Afghanistan. These were later processed and are now posted here. No attempt is presently made to assign Jason’s specimen to family, genus, or species, but progress in that direction is being made.

Several good sources, among them Fred Punzo’s 1998 book “The Biology of Camel Spiders,” will soon be reviewed for that purpose. As soon as a tentative determination on the taxonomy of Jason’s specimen has been made, this posting will be revised accordingly. In the meantime, its anatomical characters are presented for those who have an interest in such things.

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, distal segments of left Leg III --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

100. Distal Left Leg III

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, distal segments of right Leg III --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

101. Distal Right Leg III

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, frontodorsolateral abdomen and proximal segments of Legs III & IV --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

102. FDL abdomen etc.

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, frontodorsolateral prosoma --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

103. FDL prosoma

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, right pedipalp distal segments --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

104. Right Distal Pedipalp

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, frontal habitus --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

105. Frontal habitus

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, dorsum --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

106. Dorsum

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, posterior view --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

107. Posterior

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, posterior view showing malleoli --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

108. Malleoli

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, distal left pedipalp --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

109. Distal left pedipalp

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, right laterodorsal view --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

109. Right laterodorsum

Solifugae: Camel Spider from Afghanistan, right laterodorsal prosoma --- Jason C., 21 July 2011

110. RLD prosoma

Before getting into the physiology of this specimen, let’s first discuss its common name.

“Camel spider” is a term often used with such animals in the Middle East. The association is less a result of the use of camels as beasts of burden there, as for the more mundane fact that these arachnids have prosomal humps that vaguely resemble the hump on the camel’s back.

Thus that common name makes sense wherever such arachnids are found. However, when we find them in South Texas, we are more likely to call them “wind scorpions.”

That latter name suggests these may have crucial similarities to the typical scorpion, which is best known for its ability to deliver a painful sting.

On the contrary, not only does the camel spider, or — if you prefer — wind scorpion, not possess a stinging telson, it has no venom glands of any kind (the sole exception to this rule is found in a limited region of India).

Though this arachnid has an enormous pair of chelicerae (chewing mouthparts), which are said to be capable of piercing human skin, records of serious bites are few to nonexistent. Jason, in fact, tells me that he handled this camel spider and came into contact with its mouthparts, yet its bite was of no consequence whatever.

Taxonomy:

  • Phylum: Arthropoda (animals with jointed appendages);
  • Class: Arachnida (eight-legged arthropods);
  • subclass: Dromopoda (from the Greek δρομας “dromas” = running, racing, whirling + Greek ποδ “pod(a)” = foot, thus an animal with running feet): comprises the Opiliones (harvestmen), true scorpions, pseudoscorpions and Solifugae (camel spiders, wind scorpions);
  • Order: Solifugae (a Latin-derived term meaning “those that flee, or take refuge, from the sun“)

Anatomy: in process

Behavior: in process

Common Names: in process

Distinguishing Characteristics: in process

Distribution: in process

Physiology: in process

Mythology: in process

Similar Families: in process

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References:

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