For those who have arachnophobia, the prospect of encountering a camel spider might seem scary. In reality, however, these animals are arachnids, but they’re not actually spiders at all. As members of the order Solifugae, they comprise more than 1,000 distinct species, and they’re marked by some distinctive characteristics that are absent in other arachnids, like spiders, scorpions and ticks.
Getting to Know Members of the Solifugae Order
According to researchers, camel spiders can grow to about 6 inches, or 15 cm, long. While many true spiders produce venom that poses a threat to humans and animals, the worst a camel spider can do is deliver a painful bite.
Camel spiders have complex, unique physiologies. For instance, many appear to have ten legs instead of the normal eight that you’d expect from an arachnid, but the front two are actually pedipalps. These special appendages serve various functions in different species, such as forming the large pincer claws found on scorpions. Their jaws, which are close to the pedipalps and can account for about one-third of their total body length, are also extremely intriguing: One study found that they may be composed of around 80 different functional parts.
Exposing the Camel Spider Myths
So why do camel spiders have such a bad reputation? Most of it comes down to misconceptions. For instance, some people think that camel spiders are aggressive or dangerous because they follow humans around. What’s really happening, however, is that they just dislike the light, so they want to hide in your shadow.
Although some camel spiders can run at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour, they’re only dangerous if you’re another arachnid or tasty-looking rodent. If you happen to be lucky enough to see one, there’s no need to freak out.