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Desert Diary



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Many people accept that beauty is only skin deep, but somehow think that ugly must go all the way through. Why else would so many people fear such harmless creatures as Jerusalem crickets, vinegaroons, and sun spiders? These have a black place in the folklore of the Chihuahuan Desert, yet a pinched fold of skin is the worst they can do. Let's face it, ugly isn't cool!

The sun spiders, or solpugids, are one eye-catching member of the hideous trio. Ranging from about 1 to 3 inches long, their hyperactivity and formidable mouthparts has sent many a desert camper grabbing the nearest blunt object for defense.

Relax. Sun spiders are not poisonous and feed mostly on insects and true spiders, maybe even a very small lizard. Their rapid movements across the ground is understandable for, like wolves, these are animals that run down their prey rather than employing stealthy stalking or "hide and pounce" strategies.

A few enlightened souls, however, welcome them into the home—real household vermin don't stand a chance! pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


solpugid images

A solpugid from southern New Mexico. Preserved specimen. Photograph by A.H. Harris.



Phillips, S. J., and P. W. Comus, editors. 2000. A natural history of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Press, Tucson, 628 pp.