Desert Creatures

Going on overseas expeditions may seem glamorous and exciting but it does have its downsides, one of which is encountering not so friendly wildlife.

There is one animal that sends shivers up the spines of even hardened adventurers and outdoors men and as a result there are numerous scary stories relating to this creature some of which are true some are just urban myths.  It goes by several names the commonest being the Camel Spider, but is also called the Wind Spider, Wind Scorpion and Sun Spider.

Camel Spider

There are actually over 1000 species found in both the Old and New World, primarily in desert and arid climates.   They are officially called Solifugids a word derived from the Latin meaning “those that flee from the sun”, describing the behaviour of these nocturnal creatures when they are disturbed during daylight.

They are neither, true spiders or scorpions, but form an order all of their own.  They are voracious predators with the larger species being able to tackle small lizards and even rodents and snakes.  They are none venomous but have large pincer like jaws called chelicerae which can be enormous and size for size are some of the most powerful and largest jaws in the animal kingdom.

Like spiders and scorpions they have 8 legs but they have 2 long pedipalps at the front which makes them appear to have 10 legs. These pedipalps are held out in front of them as they move to detect prey and obstacles. The front pair of legs are also used for this so they actually only use the back three pairs of legs for locomotion.

Despite this the can attain speeds of up to 10mph (16kph) which is fact for a spider giving them the name wind spider.  There are false reports of them attaining speeds of 30mph.

Camel Spider

As well as exaggerations about their speed the size of camel spiders is often misquoted.  Some species can possibly attain a body size of 12cm but 5-10cm is more likely and some species are only a centimetre long.

They are said to chase people but in fact they are trying to seek shade and therefore appear to chase people when they are really just trying to get into their shadow.  They are also said to be able to jump up to 3 feet high, chew hair off sleeping babies, and eat the stomach of camels, not of these are true.

They can however be quite aggressive and have been known to give a painful bite which can become infected and there are several reports of soldiers in the Gulf having been bitten.  There are stories of these creatures biting people whilst sleeping and that there is an anaesthetic in their saliva which prevents the victim feeling the bite but most sources dispute this.

There can be no doubt that they are certainly one of the scariest looking creatures on the planet and they seem to have very few admirers, even Steve Backshall from TV’s “Deadly 60” apparently isn’t a fan.  However, they are a very efficient predator and one of the hardiest creatures around.