The camel spider is a type of Arachnid found in most deserts around the world (with the exception of Australia, thank God.) They are notable for having ten limbs, the biggest jaws of any Arachnid and the ability to grow to distressingly large sizes. Oh yeah, and they literally scream while chasing down prey.
The camel spider is not a true spider, but a type of Arachnid known as a solifugae. Terrifyingly, their segmented jaws – which contain row upon row of spiny teeth – make up around one third of the creature’s entire body length. That’s a lot of mouth.
These jaws, or ‘chelicerae’, are strong enough to comfortably cut through feathers, hair and bones. Yes, that means that they sometimes eat birds and mammals. (More on this later.) “Pound for pound” they are considered the most powerful jaws in the animal kingdom.
Camel spiders boast an extra pair of ‘legs’ known as pedipalps which are topped with adhesive suckers. In addition to providing assistance while climbing, these suckers are used to catch and immobilise prey which it then proceeds to tear apart and liquefy alive. Charming.
Unlike most species of large spider, Solifugaes don’t hide and wait for prey to come their way. Instead, they tear around the dessert floor actively searching for food to chase down and devour.
As mentioned, they are known to make a distinctive ‘screaming’ sound after spotting potential prey. While this is often dismissed as an urban legend, the behaviour has been observed by entomologists under test conditions. (There are more than 1000 described species in about 153 genera, so it obviously depends on the type.)
Camel spiders have been known to prey on a wide variety of animals, including termites, wasps, beetles, scorpions, spiders, birds, rodents, lizards and sharks. We made that last one up. But still, eh?
They are also frequent cannibals. In 2004, an American soldier in Iraq shared an image of two camel spiders locked in mortal combat. The image quickly went rival, with millions of people gleefully sharing it with their spider-fearing friends:
It is thought that trick photography was involved in the above photo to make the spiders look bigger than they actually are. With that said, camel spiders can still grow to impressive sizes with some species topping 20 centimetres.
Indeed, the only thing stopping the camel spider from being the worst thing ever is the absence of venom glands. It cannot sting you, but we definitely wouldn’t want to meet one in an Iraqi tent bed all the same.
This story has been updated since its original publication.