There is a large number of arachnid species in UAE but perhaps none has more respect in the popular imagination as the solifugae, or camel spider. There is an excellent example (under glass) in the Group's Workroom.
These creatures are nocturnal, spending days in a tiny burrow or hole which it has dug itself. They are unlikely to be encountered in the colder months, but during the warmer period of the year they can infest some areas. Members report being "overrun" by camel spiders while camping in gravelly desert south of AI Wagan, on the Al Ain - Al Liwa road. The spiders were apparently attracted by firelight and moved extremely fast, running over soft sand, hard-packed gravel, or bodies, with equal ease.
This species possesses no poison and relies on strength and speed. It is carnivorous and lives on a diet of insects, spiders, scorpions and small lizards. It is so voracious that it will feed until it is too bloated to move effectively. Prey is held between the forceps of the Chelicerae and chewed with such vigour that a solifugae eating a beetle can be heard over a distance of several metres.
Camel spiders are not harmful to humans, and will only bite by accident. However, they are very pugnacious and fight fiercely with scorpions, centipedes and with each other. It is perhaps their speed that has instilled more fear than they deserve.
Mating habits are different from those of other arachnids. The male courts the female by stroking her with his pedipalpi and forelegs. This reduces her to a passive state, as if anaesthetized, whereupon the male lays her on her side. Raising his body he ejects a mass of spermatozoa onto the ground, picks it up with his chelicerae and forces it into the vagina. He closes the opening and waits a few moments and then hurriedly departs before the female has a chance to grab and eat him.
Until now I have not been able to keep solifugae for more than a few weeks. Food supply may be the problem as fresh mincemeat dancing on the end of a length of cotton does not deceive a self-respecting camel spider indefinitely. Any suggestions on studying them in captivity would be welcomed.
* Mike Southey is the Group Recorder for Arachnids and Scorpions and is keen to receive any specimens, dead or alive. Return to top