Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sun spider

A Solifugae (Class Arachnida, order Solifugae [=Solpugida]) from Nebraska.
Solifugae (a.k.a. -- sun spiders, wind scorpions, or camel spiders) are common to the dry places of the world. Western Nebraska is such a place. Even still, I was pleasantly surprised today when a fella from one of the local welding companies brought by the critter above. It was apparently roaming around the welding shop. Yep, 'normal people' might freak out upon someone bringing one of these into their office. An entomologist says, "that is so cool!"

I have seen these before in collections and as 'pets' in terrariums, but I've never had someone bring one in for an identification. Maybe you have already noticed that this animal doesn't look like your every-day spider. It isn't. They do belong to the same class as spiders, Arachnida, but they are in a different order, the Solifugae. There are a couple characteristics that make these critters stand out. The chelicerae are fashioned into a set of vertical pincer-like appendages that hang in from of a small set of eyes. Also, count the legs ... Spiders have 8 (4 pair) legs, but how many do you see here? If you counted 10, you were tricked. The first pair of leg-like appendages are not legs, they are enlarged pedipalps that help the sun spider feel around in the darkness where it prefers to hang out.

Our Nebraskan camel spider is only a couple inches long (not as fancy as some of the giant African solifuges). None-the-less, he is now a resident in an aquarium at the PREC entomology lab. Perhaps I'll provide some video of the critter in action in the near future. Hopefully I have some success in keeping it, I'm not doing such a great job with my Madagascar hissing cockroaches (although major kudos to my technicians for helping keep them limping along). If I'm successful at keeping our 'pet' solifuges alive, it is bound to generate interest in the school groups to whom we often speak.