Large, speedy and scary!
As far as misconceptions go, the camel spider must be the most misunderstood species on the planet. For starters, it’s not actually a spider! The Egyptian giant solpugid, as it is scientifically known, is an arachnoid but not a spider. Its appearance has led to the mislabelling.
How big can it get?
Rumours arose during the first Gulf War and subsequent military campaigns in the Middle East that the camel spider was a man-eater and grew to enormous sizes. Such claims are preposterous. The creature actually grows to about 15 centimetres (6 inches) in length, hardly the stuff man-eaters are made of.
What does it eat?
This carnivore is likely to be found munching on insects, lizards and rodents, as well as the occasional small bird.
How does it hunt?
It has a top speed of 10 miles per hour (16kph) so it has little trouble catching up to even the most fleet of foot prey. Its jaws, which may measure as much as a third of its body size, are powerful and can chop and saw meals into smaller pieces. Digestive fluids liquefy the victim’s body.
How dangerous is it?
It has a painful bite but its lack of venom means that it does not pose a great danger to humans. This however didn’t stop hardened, heavily armed soldiers in Iraq becoming alarmed when these big, fast creatures appeared to chase them across the desert! In reality, the camel spider was merely taking advantage of the soldiers’ shadows, which offered a nice cool respite from the beaming sun.
How many are left?
Calculations have not been conducted to establish how many camel spiders can be found today. However, it maintains a healthy presence suggesting it is currently not threatened.
Some people coming across the solpugid believe it to have the most legs of any ‘spider’ in the world. This is again a misconception. Alongside its eight legs, it has a pair of pedipals (sensory organs) that give the appearance of two additional limbs.