The camel spider gets its name from its desert habitat. However, this animal is not a spider at all. Due to their similar appearance, they were assigned to the class of arachnids. The appearance of the creatures is fully consistent with their character. Animals are so voracious that they can eat until they literally burst.
Origin of the species and description
These creatures have many names – solpuga, phalanx, bihorka. The order Solifugae, to which they belong, in translation means “running away from the light of the sun.” This is not entirely true, because among camel spiders there are a lot of sun-loving diurnal species.
Interesting fact: Africans called arthropods barbers or barbers. The population had a belief that the walls of the underground passages of the saltpug were covered with the hair of people and animals, which they cut with their chelicerae (mouth organ).
Some nationalities call the phalanges “wind scorpions” because of their ability to move quickly. In England, the names camel spider, sun scorpion, wind scorpion, sun spider are popular, in Tajikistan – calli gusola (bull’s head), in southern countries – red romans, baarskeerders.
Video: Camel spider
Scientific names – Solpugida, Solpugae, Solpugides, Galeodea, Mycetophorae. The name “phalanx” is inconvenient for scientists because of consonance with the Latin name of the detachment of haymakers – Phalangida. The order includes 13 families, up to a thousand species and 140 genera.
The most famous representatives of the solpug:
The oldest find of the detachment belongs to the Carboniferous period. The Protosolpugidae species is now considered extinct and is described from fossils found in Pennsylvania. Animals are found in the Early Cretaceous deposits of Brazil, Dominican, Burmese, Baltic amber.
Appearance and features
The structure of the phalanges is quite peculiar: it combines both highly developed features and primitive ones. The first includes the tracheal system – the most developed among arachnids. To the second – the structure of the body and limbs. Appearance is a cross between spiders and insects.
Bihorks are quite large animals, Central Asian species reach 5-7 centimeters in length, but some do not exceed 10-15 millimeters. The elongated body is covered with many long hairs and setae. The color is dark yellow, sandy, whitish.
The anterior part of the body, on which the chelicerae are located, is covered with a large chitinous shield. The pedipalp tentacles often act as forelimbs and look rather intimidating. Animals have 10 legs in total. Chelicerae are like pincers or forceps. There is a pair of black eyes on the eye tubercle, the lateral eyes are practically not developed.
If the forelimbs mainly perform a tactile function, then the hind legs have tenacious claws and suckers, with which the phalanges can easily climb vertical surfaces. The spindle-shaped abdomen has 10 segments formed by the abdominal and dorsal parts.
Tracheal breathing is highly developed. It consists of longitudinal trunks and branched vessels with thickened walls in the form of a spiral, which penetrate the entire body of the salpuga. Thick hair and quick movements help to scare off enemies, as do chelicerae, which look like crab claws and have the ability to make squeaky sounds.
Mouth appendages are so strong that they allow arachnids to cut hair, feathers and hair from victims , pierce the skin, cut the bones of birds. Jaw screeds in the form of bubbles. Sharp teeth in the mouth. The tactile hairs of males are longer than those of females.
Where does the camel spider live?
Bihorki are inhabitants of desert, arid, steppe areas with a tropical and subtropical climate. Sometimes they can be found in temperate regions. Only single species of phalanges have adapted to life in the forests. The largest number is concentrated in the Old World. Representatives of the Eremobatidae and Ammotrechidae families can only be found in the New World.
In the Old World, arachnids are distributed throughout almost all of Africa, with the exception of Madagascar, in South, Western and Central Asia. Despite ideal living conditions, arthropods do not live in Australia and the Pacific Islands.
Several families live in the Palearctic, two endemics live in South Africa. The range also extends to India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, in Western Europe – the Balkan and Iberian Peninsulas, Greece, Spain. Unsuitable living conditions do not allow inhabiting the Arctic and Antarctica.
On the territory of the countries of the former USSR, bihorks live throughout Central Asia – in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. They are found in Transcaucasia, the North Caucasus, Kalmykia, in the Gobi desert, Astrakhan, in the Lower Volga region, the Crimean peninsula. Some species are found at an altitude of up to 3 thousand meters above sea level.
Now you know where the camel spider is found. Let’s find out what it eats.
What does a camel spider eat?
These arachnids are overly gluttonous. They consume a wide variety of living creatures with which they can cope.
For the most part these are insects:
- dark beetles;
Despite the fact that salpugs have no poisonous glands, arthropods can encroach even on small animals. Large individuals attack lizards, chicks, young rodents. When meeting with scorpions of the same size, the victory usually goes to the phalanx. Creatures quickly grab prey and gnaw it with powerful chelicerae.
Interesting fact: If an animal is provided with an endless supply of food that does not have to be chased, salpugs will absorb food until their abdomen bursts. And even after that, they will eat until they finally die.
During the day, the creatures hide under stones, dig holes or burrow into others. Some individuals use the same shelters, while others each time look for a new shelter. Arthropods are attracted to light sources. Often they crawl into the light from fires or lanterns.
Some species are called hive ravagers. At night, they sneak into the hives and destroy many insects. After that, the bottom of the house is covered with the remains of bees, and the camel spider lies with a bloated belly, unable to leave the hive. By morning, the remaining bees sting him to death.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Bihorki are very mobile. They hunt mainly at night, although diurnal species are also found. During the winter, arthropods hibernate, and some species may do so during the summer months as well. They got the name “Scorpion of the Wind” for the ability to move at a speed of 16 kilometers per hour. Large specimens jump over one meter.
These creatures are aggressive, but not at all venomous, although their bites can have serious consequences. Large individuals are able to bite through the skin or fingernail of a person. If the rotting remains of their victims are present on the mandibles, they can get into the wound and cause blood poisoning or at least inflammation.
Interesting fact: There are many different speculations about the poisonousness of animals . For many centuries, the salpuga was considered terribly poisonous and dangerous to human life.
The creature is absolutely not afraid of people. At night, the phalanxes can easily run into the tent by the light of a lantern, so the entrance should always be closed. And climbing inside, it is better to once again check if the animal has run in with you. Personal belongings must also be kept in a tent, as a saltpug, tired after a night hunt, can climb into them to rest.
It is impossible to drive a bihorka out of the tent. She is very nimble and stubborn, so it remains only to kill her or sweep her with a broom. It is advisable to do all this with thick gloves, and it is better to tuck the trousers into boots. At the same time, it should be remembered that it is impossible to crush an animal on the sand.
Social structure and reproduction
With the onset of the mating season, the female begins to emit a specific smell, which the male senses with the help of pedipalps. Mating takes place at night, after which the male must quickly retreat, as the female begins to show signs of aggression.
Fertilized female phalanges are distinguished by special gluttony. During copulation, they are so passive that the male has to drag them along. But at the end of the process, the females are so cheered up that the male has to take off his legs in order not to become a snack.
The male releases a sticky spermatophore on the ground, collects it with chelicerae and introduces it into the female’s genital opening. The process takes several minutes. The movements of the male during mating are reflex. If the process has begun, the male will not finish it, even if the female or the spermatophore is removed from him.
A fertilized female begins to feed intensively, after which she digs a hole and lays 30-200 eggs of various species in it. The development of embryos begins in the oviducts of the female, therefore, after 2-3 weeks, small spiders appear.
At first, the cubs are practically motionless, without hairs, covered with a thin cuticle. After a couple of weeks, molting begins, the covers harden, the babies grow hairs and make the first movements. At first, the female takes care of the offspring, looking for food until the cubs get stronger.
Natural enemies of the camel spider
The shaggyness of the salpug, combined with sharp, quick movements and impressive size, has a frightening effect on enemies. Creatures are so aggressive that any movement around is perceived as a danger. They choose an attack tactic and immediately attack the enemy.
When meeting with enemies, the creatures assume a threatening posture: they raise their front section and put forward their wide-open claws, raise their front paws and move towards the enemy. At the same time, they squeak menacingly or chirp loudly, making sounds by rubbing chelicera against each other.
The phalanxes have many enemies:
- large spiders;
- bears and others
To protect themselves from danger, arachnids dig holes at a depth of up to 20 centimeters, several meters long. The entrance is masked by filling it with dry leaves. If the enemy is too large and the Solpugs doubt their victory, the ability to jump long distances and easily climb vertical surfaces comes to the rescue.
If they are attacked, the creatures will fiercely defend themselves and use powerful claws. The phalanges have a good chance of coping with the scorpion, although it is very poisonous and dangerous. Animals are aggressive even towards each other.
Population and species status
The number of camel spiders is estimated at 700-1000 species. There is no exact data on the population size, but in some years it increases so much that crowds of salpugs literally attack human houses, crawling through ajar windows, doors and any cracks. Population density is quite low. Searches for phalanxes throughout the day lead to the discovery of no more than 3 individuals.
In 2018, in the Volgograd region, animals bred so much in the area of the Shebalino farm that they scared the local population away. The Crimean salpuga often spoils the rest of tourists, not embarrassed to sit down on vacationers by the fire. Those who find themselves in such a situation are advised to remain calm.
Threat factors include the destruction of biotopes, the development of areas suitable for habitation, plowing of land for crops, overgrazing of livestock, destruction by mankind due to the fear of being bitten. The recommended conservation measures are reduced to the preservation of landscapes, including habitats.
The camel spider is a unique creature, aggressive and fearless. They are not afraid to attack opponents 3-4 times their size. Contrary to all the fables created around these animals, they are practically not dangerous for humans. If the bite still could not be avoided, it is enough to wash the wound with antibacterial soap and treat with an antiseptic.