Friday, March 12, 2010

Camel Spider in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert

The Camel Spiders (Solifugae), also known as wind scorpions, jerrymuglum, sun scorpions and sun spiders, are not true spiders, which are from the order Araneae.

Most Solifugae inhabit arid habitats, including all deserts in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, including in Afghanistan, Mongolia, India, South Africa, and Middle East countries like Iraq. They are carnivorous or omnivorous; feed on termites, darkling beetles and other small arthropods. Solifugae have been recorded feeding on snakes, lizards and rodents. They do not normally attack humans, but their large chelicerae can penetrate human skin and cause much pain.

The larger species grow to 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) in length and have a leg span of 12 centimeters (5 inches). They have large chelicerae, each of the two chelicerae has two articles forming a powerful pincer and each article bears numerous teeth.

There are many legends about them. In the Middle East, soldiers of the American and coalition military forces believe that Solifugae will feed on living human flesh, stories as scary as vampires sucking blood and killing the victims. They say believe the creature will inject anaesthetizing venom into the skin of its sleeping victims and then feed voraciously, leaving the victim to awaken with a gaping wound. But these creatures do not produce such an anaesthetic or poison, and they do not attack unless they are threatened.

Other stories about them include tales that they leap into the air, disembowel camels, scream, and run alongside moving Humvees and other military vehicles. These stories are dismissed as baseless by biologists. But for because of their bizarre, scary appearance many people are afraid of them. The only threat they pose to humans is their bite in self-defense, mostly when they are hurt. There is no possibility of death due to their bite. However, due to the strong muscles of their chelicerae, they can cause large wounds prone to infection.

Solifugae apparently have no venom, with the possible exception of one species found in India. A published study of one species, Rhagodes nigrocinctus, carried out in India in 1978 by researchers found what they believed to be epidermal glands. Extracts from these glands were injected into lizards, on which it induced paralysis in 7 out of 10 tests.

But this study has never been confirmed by peer verification or research. While other researchers have been unable to locate similar glands in other species, this particular species found in India may possess venom.

However, insect bites of any type can be toxic and even dangerous if not treated, and the bites or injuries caused by camel spiders also need medical attention to avoid any complications. Also, there is nothing as dangerous about them as the westerners holed up in Afghanistan may like to tell others.

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