North American Camel Spiders: Systematic Revision and Biogeography of an Understudied TaxonSolifuges (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.