Camel spiders have jaws that are up to one-third of their body length. The camel spider uses its large jaws (biologists can these jaws chelicerae) to seize their prey like a folding knife and then cut, gnaw, and chew the victim. Camel spiders are carnivores; they eat meat.
Camel spiders are said to have gotten their name because they can jump from the ground onto the belly of a camel and using their powerful jaws can disembowel a camel in minutes. That is not true. Camel spiders do not eat camels. (They also do not eat humans.) Camel spiders eat insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds.
Camel spiders are not actually spiders. They belong to the scientific class Arachnida. Spiders are arachnids, but not all arachnids are spiders. Camel spiders belong to the scientific order Solifugae, commonly called solpugids. Unlike spiders, solpugids do not spin webs.
Camel spiders grow to about 6 inches (15 cm) long and weigh about 2 ounces (56 grams). They have eight legs and two extra leg-like appendages near their mouth that are sensory organs called pedipalps. The camel spider uses its pedipalps to find and then hold the prey white its oversized, powerful jaws cut it to pieces. Camel spiders are not venomous but they do have digestive fluids that liquefy their victims’ flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs.
Camel spiders are also called wind scorpions and Egyptian giant solpugids (SAHL-pyoo-jids). They are most commonly found in Middle Eastern deserts, but they also live in the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico. (Camel spiders or wind scorpions are also not scorpions; they do not have tails that sting.)
Solifugae is Latin for “those who flee from the sun.” Camel spiders hunt at night and stay hidden in the soil in burrows during the day. There are more than 1,000 species of solpugids.
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