zoology

North American Camel Spiders

North American Camel Spiders: Systematic Revision and Biogeography of an Understudied Taxon

Solifuges (Arachnida: Solifugae), commonly called camel spiders, are an important group of arachnids found in fragile, often threatened desert ecosystems. They are notoriously difficult to study since they are hard to find and collect and challenging to identify due to limited diagnostic characteristics. They are the sixth most diverse order of arachnids, yet there are few scientists studying any aspect of their biology. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science arachnology lab is one of the primary labs in the world researching this challenging group of animals, thanks largely to support from the National Science Foundation (NSF DEB-1754587). The primary goals of our research are to carry out a thorough phylogenomic analysis using next-generation sequencing methods (ultra-conserved elements, or UCEs), along with exploring unique morphological characters to understand how different genera and different species groups within the North American family Eremobatidae are related evolutionarily. Our teams are also using other molecular sequencing methods (3RAD DNA sequencing) to conduct the very first camel spider phylogeographic studies by examining two well-defined species groups. This research allows us to leverage the only remaining expertise on North American solifuges to excite a new generation of scientists who will move this field forward.

Staff

Paula E. Cushing, PhD

Senior Curator of Invertebrate Zoology

Erika Garcia, MS

Research Assistant

(Richard) Ryan Jones

Research Assistant

Jeffrey T. Stephenson

Zoology Collections Manager

Courtney J. Scheskie, MA

Business Support Specialist


Camel Spiders of North America Online Guide

In addition to training students, our lab is also creating an online identification guide to North American camel spiders. This guide, along with the camel spider research that is the focus of our arachnology lab, is supported with National Science Foundation funding. The online guide will provide high-quality photographs for the identification of camel spider species found throughout North America.

Students, Interns and Volunteers

We support high school students and college undergraduate students as interns. These students also assist with our grant-funded camel spider research and are largely responsible for creating the online guide to camel spiders.
These students are supported and trained by both Paula Cushing and Jack Brookhart. Jack is a Denver Museum of Nature & Science research associate who has been doing research on and publishing scientific papers on camel spiders since the 1960s. He is one of the world experts in this group of arachnids.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. The deserts of the Middle East are home to some of the largest species of camel spiders, or solifuges. These species can get up to 7 cm (about 3 inches) in length. And no species is big enough to kill a large mammal!

If you are an insect, they are deadly but not if you are a human (which I assume you are since you are reading this). Solifuges do not have venom, and although they may act like they are going for your jugular, the worst they can do is give you a good hard nip with their powerful jaws.

The majority of solifuge species are nocturnal (active at night) and do not like the daylight. If they find themselves chased out of their hiding hole or burrow during the day, they will seek a dark place to hide—that dark place may be the shadow cast by a running, terrified soldier.

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