Photo: A camel spider

Despite some media reports, these arachnids are not half the size of a full-grown man. They are big though, reaching about 6 six inches (15 centimeters) in length.

Photograph by Michael & Patricia Fogden/Corbis

Map

Map: Egyptian giant solpugid range

Egyptian Giant Solpugid (Camel Spider) Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Bug
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
Less than one year
Size:
6 in (15 cm)
Weight:
2 oz (56 g)
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Egyptian giant solpugid compared with tea cup.

Camel spiders became an Internet sensation during the Iraq war of 2003, when rumors of their bloodthirsty nature began to circulate online. Many tales were accompanied with photos purporting to show spiders half the size of a human.

For many years, Middle Eastern rumors have painted camel spiders as large, venomous predators, as fast as a running human, with a voracious appetite for large mammals. The myths are untrue. These creatures do not actually eat camels' stomachs or sleeping soldiers, and they are not so large—but the real camel spider is still an amazing predator.

The camel spider's history of misinformation begins with a misidentification. Camel spiders are not even spiders. Like spiders, they are members of the class Arachnida, but they are actually solpugids.

Camel spiders, also called wind scorpions and Egyptian giant solpugids (SAHL-pyoo-jids), are only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. Photos that purport to show creatures six times that size have misleading perspective—the spider is invariably placed in the foreground where the lens makes it appear much bigger than its actual size. True, they are fast, but only compared to other arachnids. Their top speed is estimated at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour.

Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful), but they are vicious predators that can visit death upon insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds. These hardy desert dwellers boast large, powerful jaws, which can be up to one-third of their body length. They use them to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion. Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims' flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs.

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