Stop Bullying Camel Spiders

Thanks to Dallas Krentzel on Flickr for photographing this not-so-scary arachnid.

Wouldn’t you know it, camel spiders aren’t spiders.

They’re actually the world’s smallest camels.

I kid. While spiders belong to the Araneida order, camel spiders are arachnids in the order Solifugae, which means “those who flee from the sun.” That probably explains how rumors of these animals chasing people came about – they’re not actually trying to attack anyone, they’re just seeking refuge in the shade of people’s shadows.

In fact, there are a lot of rude rumors going around about camel spiders, including myths that they “disembowel” camels or eat people in their sleep while numbing them with venom. They do not eat camels, but they will once again rest underneath them for the shade they provide. They also do not dine on human flesh and are nonvenomous, although they may bite if they feel threatened. They don’t scream but rather hiss, and they can’t run 30mph and leap crazy-high into the air. They may jump a little bit, but they’re not very high jumpers and their max speed is about 10mph – that’s fast, but not breaking-neighborhood-speed-limits fast.

Most of these myths started in the West during the Gulf War and the Iraq War (which is hilarious to me since they also live in Arizona), including a particularly famous one that camel spiders are giant behemoth arachnids (I’ll admit, the Arizona ones are smaller). In actuality they’re only several inches long; again, that’s big for an arachnid, but not “oh that’s not a cat, that’s my camel spider” kind of big.

Unless you’re of rodent size or smaller, camel spiders should hardly be considered dangerous. Yes, their bite wouldn’t be pleasant, but it’s not like it would kill you or anything (unless, like any bite from any animal, it gets infected. Clean the wound and you’ll be fine). Let’s stop spreading such hurtful lies about these innocent arachnids and bring some of their more positive attributes to light:

Besides “camel spider,” these interesting arachnids are known by several other names, including “beard cutter,” “wind scorpion” and “sun spider.” They’ve also been called the “Kalahari Ferrari,” which I’m assuming refers to their impressive speed and is what I shall henceforth refer to them as because it’s awesome.

The Kalahari Ferrari is known to eat scorpions, lizards, snakes, and other seemingly-inedible animals. Despite their hardcore diet, however, Kalahari Ferraris need a lot of attention to thrive and so don’t often fare very well in lab settings whenever scientists try to study them. For example, one obstacle researchers run into is that Kalahari Ferraris rely heavily on vibrations to hunt and may not detect prey that isn’t moving. Therefore, if scientists try to feed dead insects to their Kalahari Ferraris, they have to jiggle them to get the arachnids to notice their lunch.

Like tarantulas, it’s easy to think that the Kalahari Ferrari has ten legs. However, the front two “legs” are actually pedipalps, which the arachnid uses to find and handle prey, and to navigate through its environment. They’re not walking legs – they’re fancy legs.

So you see, the Kalahari Ferrari is not the stuff of nightmares, but rather just a desert arachnid/sports car trying to eat some food and find some shade. Let this be a lesson to us all: for the umpteenth time, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Just because someone says they found a killer spider that wants to eat you for breakfast doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth – I mean seriously, read that again, that sounds completely made up!

Hm… I guess this blog is on the internet too. Well. This is awkward. But I stand by what I said – don’t believe everything you read on the internet, including me! Fact check The ArthroBlogger – just because I say something you haven’t heard before doesn’t mean it’s true, I’m a human being who might get her facts mixed up from time to time. I try to go back and correct things when I realize I’ve made a mistake, but it’s definitely possible for me to miss stuff.

Who knows? Maybe Kalahari Ferraris aren’t arachnids at all and are actually a very rare breed of koala. Unless you fact check, you’ll never know.

One Comment on “Stop Bullying Camel Spiders

  1. Pingback: Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Tarantula? – The ArthroBlogger

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