The Arachnid Order Solifugae



Major Collections
Type DepositoriesPast Researchers
Present Researchers
Globel Survey/Inventory

Project Aims

Diversity Inventories

Morphology, Anatomy, Cytogenetic and Behavior Surveys

Higher Phylogeny, Classification and Biogeography

Revisionary Syntheses

Outreach Activities

Other Projects
Collecting Techniques
Preservation Techniques


Aims of the
Global Survey and Inventory of Solifugae


Targeted Families: Taxonomic revisions will be conducted on three families of solifuges:  Eremobatidae (by Jack Brookhart, Paula Cushing, and Warren Savary);  Solpugidae (by Tharina Bird); and Rhagodidae (By Alexander Gromov).  All of these families are diverse (containing many new species), require generic revision, are well represented by museum material, are likely monophyletic, and are easy to collect for DNA isolation, anatomical work and behavior.  This work will develop revisionary expertise in three regions where the targeted families are a dominant component of solifuge diversity:  the Nearctic (Eremobatidae), the Afrotropical (Solpugidae), and the Palearctic (Rhagodidae).

Methods: Revisions will be based on examinations of type and nontype material in appropriate collections (see Major Collections) and material that is newly acquired during fieldwork.  Studies will involve a thorough assessment of morphological and anatomical characters (in systems known to be informative in the study group based on the morphological and anatomical surveys, using light microscopy, SEM and other appropriate methods outlined elsewhere in the proposal. Each investigator will provide a phylogenetic analysis of the study group, using such characters (fully illustrated and documented with digital images), analyzed separately and simultaneously with molecular data from at least six loci, generated at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from tissue samples collected during fieldwork.  Trainees will learn laboratory skills to generate sequence data at the AMNH.  Each investigator will redefine genera based on the results of their phylogenetic analyses, describe new species in their study group, redescribe existing species, and provide new diagnoses and illustrated keys for their identification.  Descriptions and identification keys, accompanied by illustrations (habitus, diagnostic characters, distribution maps), will be generated automatically using DELTA and IntKey.  Digital images of habitus and morphological characters will be archived in the online specimen database, containing all specimen and tissue sample collection data, repositories, accession numbers, and identifications. All georeferenced point locality records obtained from material examined and archived in the database will be submitted to ArcView GIS for generating distribution maps and for spatial analysis of distribution patterns (e.g., ecological correlates of distribution, assessments of conservation status).

DNA-based Identification: Much of solifuge classification, including keys and diagnoses, especially to species, relies on male secondary sexual characteristics, particularly the flagellum, restricted to males, and cheliceral dentition, often differing in females and immatures (Birula 1938; Kraepelin 1899; Lawrence 1955, 1963; Muma 1951; Roewer 1932, 1933, 1934, 1941; Wharton 1981), which may be impossible to identify, even in well-studied areas.  In southern Africa, Griffin (1990) and Dean & Griffin (1993) were unable to identify female and immature ceromids, daesiids, and melanoblossids, which accounted for 60% of individuals captured.  Muma 1974, 1975. 1975a) recorded similar percentages in the southwestern United States, where early immatures could only be identified to family, and mid-late instars only to genus.  Inability to identify most individuals captured during routine surveys renders quantitative assessment of solifuge species richness impractical.  Ecological studies of habitat utilization and seasonal activities for a major component of arid and semi-arid communities are similarly hindered.  To resolve the problem, we will generate and test molecular markers to associate females and immatures with identified males.  A network of collaborators together with focused inventories will yield fresh material for DNA isolation.  Preliminary data for ten solifuge families have been acquired for 6 loci, including the ‘barcode’ gene COI, indicating that sequencing DNA will be straightforward.  COI has been targeted for species identification by the Barcode of Life initiative, and we will test its efficacy for identifying solifuges against other variable loci (e.g., 16S and 12S). Our investigation will begin with well-known eremobatids from Colorado, and then be tested in daesiids and solpugids from the Namib Desert, where a few well-studied species of both families occur (Wharton 1981, 1987).


Birula, A.A. 1938. Arachnides, Ordo Solifuga. In Faune de l’USSR. Vol. 1(3): i–vii, 1–173. L’Académie des Sciences de l’URSS: Moscow, Leningrad. (in Russian)            

Dean, W.R.J. & Griffin, E.  1993.  Seasonal activity patterns and habitats in Solifugae (Arachnida) in the southern Karoo.  South African Journal of Zoology 28: 91–94.

Griffin, E. 1990. Seasonal activity, habitat selection and species richness of Solifugae (Arachnida) on the gravel plains of the central Namib Desert. Pp. 77–82. In Namib ecology: 25 years of Namib research (M.K. Seely, ed.). Transvaal Museum Monograph 7.

Kraepelin, K. 1899. Zur Systematik der Solifugen. Mitteilungen aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum in Hamburg 16: 195–259, taf. I, II.

Lawrence, R.F. 1955. Solifugae, scorpions and Pedipalpi, with checklists and keys to South African families, genera and species. Pp. 152–262. In South African Animal Life. Results of the Lund Expedition in 1950–1951. Vol. 1. Almquist and Wiksell: Stockholm.

Lawrence, R.F. 1963. The Solifugae of South West Africa. Cimbebasia 8: 1–28.

Muma, M.H. 1951. The arachnid order Solpugida in the United States. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 97(2): 35–141

Muma, M.H. 1974. Solpugid populations in southwestern New Mexico. The Florida Entomologist 54(4): 385–392.

Muma, M.H. 1975. Long term can trapping for population analyses of ground-surface, arid-land arachnids. The Florida Entomologist 58: 257–270.

Muma, M.H. 1975a. Two vernal ground-surface arachnid populations in Tularosa Basin, New Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 20: 55–67.

Roewer, C.F. 1932. Solifugae, Palpigradi. In Klassen und Ordnungen des Tierreichs (H.G. Bronns, ed.). 5: Arthropoda. IV: Arachnoidea. Vol. 5(IV)(4)(1): 1–160. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft M.B.H.: Leipzig.

Roewer, C.F. 1933. Solifugae, Palpigradi. In Klassen und Ordnungen des Tierreichs (H.G. Bronns, ed.). 5: Arthropoda. IV: Arachnoidea. Vol. 5(IV)(4)(2–3): 161–480. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft M.B.H.: Leipzig.

Roewer, C.F. 1934. Solifugae, Palpigradi. In Klassen und Ordnungen des Tierreichs (H.G. Bronns, ed.). 5: Arthropoda. IV: Arachnoidea. Vol. 5(IV)(4)(4–5): 481–723. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft M.B.H.: Leipzig.

Roewer, C.F. 1941. Solifugen 1934–1940. Veröffentlichungen des Deutschen Kolonial Ubersee-Museums, Bremen 3: 97–192.

Wharton, R.A. 1981. Namibian Solifugae (Arachnida). Cimbebasia Memoir 5: 1–87.

Wharton, R.A. 1987. Biology of the diurnal Metasolpuga picta (Kraepelin) (Solifugae, Solpugidae) compared with that of nocturnal species. Journal of Arachnology 14(3): 363–383.


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