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Windscorpion

A picture of a Winscorpion (click to enlarge)
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M. A. Chappell/
Animals Animals or Earth Scenes
Windscorpion, any of an order of arachnids known for their speed and their large, forward-pointing chelicerae, or biting fangs. They live in tropical or subtropical dry areas of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Worldwide, there are about 900 known species of windscorpions, and in North America there are 120.

Windscorpions are so named because they seem to move "like the wind." They are also called solfugids, after their order. Other names for windscorpions include camelspiders, sunscorpions, and sunspiders, because some species are active during the day. Most species of windscorpion are actually nocturnal, but they are often attracted to light. They prey mainly on insects and other invertebrates, although some of the larger species occasionally eat small vertebrates, such as young lizards. Their unusually large chelicerae, or jaws, point forward and are used to crush and shred the prey. Windscorpions are not venomous but they can bite humans and the wound may become infected. Windscorpions range in length from 1 to 70 mm (0.25 to 2.75 in). The most common species in the United States are a few centimeters (up to 1.2 in) long. They inhabit the drier, warmer parts of the west (though one species can be found in Florida) and are harmless.

The prosoma, or combined head and thorax, of the windscorpion is covered by a carapace (shell-like covering) and has one pair of eyes. The opisthosoma, or abdomen, is sac-like and is covered by 11 segmental plates. Windscorpions do not have a sting-tipped tail like true scorpions. The sensory pedipalps, or leg-like mouthparts, are very long, and reach ahead of the animal as it moves. Windscorpions have four pairs of true legs. The first two legs are small and are used like antennae; the three pairs behind them are used for running. The windscorpion's body is usually light colored and covered with sensory bristles. Windscorpions breathe through three pairs of trachea (branched air tubes) on the abdomen.

During mating, the male usually grasps and strokes the female to make her receptive to his advances. He uses his chelicerae to open her genital orifice and deposits his sperm inside her. Alternatively, he may deposit sperm onto the ground in a spermatophore, or packet, and then move it to her genital orifice using his chelicerae. The female lays her eggs in a burrow. The young pass through a series of molts and may take several years to mature.

Scientific classification: Windscorpions are in the order Solifugae, class Arachnida, phylum Arthropoda. Their relatives include true spiders, true scorpions, ticks, and mites. Species found in the United States are in the families Eremobatidae and Ammotrechidae. Solfugids should not be confused with the separate arachnid orders of the whipscorpions, tailless whipscorpions, or pseudoscorpions.
 

 
 
 
 
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"Windscorpion," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.