The Arachnid Order Solifugae

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BIOLOGY/ECOLOGY


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Mimicry

Aggressive Mimicry

One of the most intriguing cases of mimicry potentially involving solifuges (as the model) involves the bird-feeding viper Pseudocerastes urarachnoides from western Iran.  The snake's coloration and rough scalation provide effective camouflage in  its natural environment, which is rich in burned gypsum.  The snake lies in ambush, exposing the tail lure and wiggling it to produce the illusion of an actively engaged solifuge.  When a bird lured by these movements approaches to take advantage of an easy meal, the snake strikes, turning the potential predator into prey.  The photograph and video below, both taken by Behzad Fathinia of Iran, illustrate the lure.  For more information about this fascinating snake, see the "References" section at the bottom of this page.


Batesian Mimicry

The images below illustrate what appears to be a striking instance of Batesian mimicry, in which a Namibian solifuge in the family Solpugidae mimics the more commonly encountered black-and-white tenebrionid beetles of the genera Onymacris and Stenocara.  The top photo depicts the solifuge; the bottom photo depicts a beetle of the genus Stenocara.  The striking black-and-white pattern of the beetles has been suggested to be an example of aposematic coloration (Edney, 1971).




[Click on bottom photograph to see a video of tenebrionid beetles in action.]

References

Fathinia, B., S. C. Anderson, N. Rastegar-Pouyani, H. Jahani, and H. Mohamadi.  2009.  Notes on the Natural History of Pseudocerastes urarachnoides (Squamata: Viperidae). Russian Journal of Herpetology Vol. 16 (2): 134 138. 

Bostanchi H., S. C. Anderson, Haji Gholi Kami, and Th. J. Papenfuss. 2006.  A new species of Pseudocerastes with elaborate tail ornamentation from western Iran (Squamata: Viperidae). Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. Ser. 4, 57(14), 443 450.

Edney, E. B.  1971.  The body temperature of tenebrionid beetles in the Namib Desert of southern Africa.  J. Exp. Biol., 55: 253-272.

 


 



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