The Arachnid Order Solifugae



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This section contributed by Kristie Reddick,
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University


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 Africa. 

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New World shrikes (Clark et al. 1983) and Old World larks and wagtails (Distant 1892, Willoughby 1971, Wharton, unpublished), have been observed to prey on solifuges, and cheliceral remains have also been found in bustard droppings (Wharton 1987).

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these are either short notes in larger treatises on the vertebrates (e. g. Haacke 1976), anecdotal accounts, or unpublished reports.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 other.

Literature cited

Bigalke, R. 1978.  Mammals, pp. 981-1048.  In: Biogeography and Ecology of Southern Africa. (M.J.A. Werger and A. C. Van Bruggen, eds.). Dr. W. Junk B. V., The Hague.

Bothma, J. du P. 1966a. Food of the silver fox Vulpes chama. Zoologica Africana 2:205221.

Bothma, J. du P. 1971. Food habits of some Carnivora (Mammalia) from Southern Africa. Annals of the Transvaal Museum 27(2):15-26.

Braine, S. 1989. Range extensions, food and breeding behavior of the Marsh Owls in Northwest Namibia, Swaziland, Natal. Madoqua 16(1):47-49.

Brain, C.K. 1974. The use of microfaunal remains as habitat indicators in the Namib.  South African Archeological Society (Goodwin Series) 2:55-60.

Brain, C.K. and V. Brain. 1977. Microfaunal remains from Mirabib: some evidence of palaeo-ecological changes in the Namib.  Madoqua 10:285-293. 

Clark, W.H., 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? Nature 46:247.

Dixon, J.E.W. 1981. Diet of the owl Glaucidium perlatum in the Etosha National Park. Madoqua 12:267-268.

Haacke, W. 1976. The burrowing geckos of southern Africa, 2 (Reptilia: Gekkonidae). Annals of the Transvaal Museum 30(2):13-28.

Bothma, J. du P. 1971. Food habits of some Carnivora (Mammalia) from Southern Africa.

Nel, J.A.J. 1978. Notes on the food and Hunting Behavior of the bat-eared fox, Otocyon megalotis.  Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum 6:132-137.

Punzo, F. 1998. The biology of camel-spiders (Arachnida, Solifugae)'. (Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston.)











































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