Although solifuges are most
often thought of as voracious predators, they may also be an important
supplement to the diets of many animals found in arid and semi-arid
ecosystems. Birds, small mammals, reptiles and arachnids such as
spiders are among the animals recorded as predators of solifuges. Solifuges
have also been observed to eat each other (Punzo 1998). Pellet and scat
analysis from various studies provide the most detailed accounts of
predation on solifuges to date and most of the quantitative data comes from
Raptors and owls appear to be
the most common bird predators associated with large solifuges in southern
Africa, based on the presence of cheliceral remains found in pellets
collected from kestral and owl roosts (Brain 1974, Brain and Brain 1977,
Dixon 1981, Wharton 1987, Braine 1989). In addition, New World shrikes
(Clark et al. 1983) and Old World larks and wagtails (Distant 1892,
Willoughby 1971, Wharton, unpublished), have been observed to prey on
solifuges, and cheliceral remains have also been found in bustard droppings
Several small mammals include
solifuges in their diets as evidenced by scat analysis. Bat-eared fox
(Otocyon megalotis) have been shown to eat solifuges in both the wet
and dry seasons in Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (Nel 1978). Other records
of solifuges as prey for small African mammals are based on scat analysis of
the common genet (Genetta genetta) (Viljoen and Davis 1973), silver
fox (Vulpes chama) (Bothma 1966), African civet (Viverra civetta)
(Bothma 1971), and the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) (Stuart
1976). Smithers (1971) and Bigalke (1978) provide more extensive summaries
of the dietary items of the small carnivores and omnivores of Africa, with
solifuges recorded from at least 14 species.
Solifuges were found to be the
fourth most abundant prey item of Coleonyx brevis, a species of gecko
found in the Chihuahuan Desert, after termites, cicadelids and spiders (Dial
1978). Although there are several records of African reptiles eating
solifuges, these are either short notes in larger treatises on the
vertebrates (e. g. Haacke 1976), anecdotal accounts, or unpublished reports.
Arthropod predators of
solifuges are not easily quantified because often it is not clear whether
the solifuges involved were targeted as prey or simply unlucky in their role
as prey. Two clear records of spider (Araneae) predators of solifuges
come from Namibia, involving a sparassid observed capturing and eating a
male Metasolpuga picta (Wharton 1987) and salticid successfully
attacking a member of the genus Lawrencega (Wharton 1980). Almost
every anecdotal account of solifuges includes stories of vicious fights
between solifuges and scorpions. Most of these accounts are due to
human influence in pitting these animals against each other. Under natural
circumstances it is not clear if these animals consistently encounter each
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silver fox Vulpes chama. Zoologica Africana 2:205–221.
Bothma, J. du P. 1971. Food habits of
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Namibia, Swaziland, Natal. Madoqua 16(1):47-49.
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Brain. 1977. Microfaunal remains from Mirabib: some evidence of palaeo-ecological
changes in the Namib. Madoqua 10:285-293.
D.R. Frohlich and P.L. Comanor. 1982. Shrike predation on the scorpion
Anuroctonus phaiodactylus (Wood) and on a solpugid (Scorpionida:
Vaejovidae; Solpugida). The Pan-Pacific Entomologist 58(2):164.
Dial, B. 1978. Aspects of the behavioral ecology
of two Chihuahuan desert geckos (Reptilia, Lacertilia, Gekkonidae). Journal
of Herpetology 12(2): 209-216.
Distant, W. L. 1892. Are the Solpugidae poisonous?
Dixon, J.E.W. 1981. Diet of the owl Glaucidium
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Haacke, W. 1976. The burrowing geckos of southern
Africa, 2 (Reptilia: Gekkonidae).
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