Re: Camel spiders in Iraq
Also known as Camel spider, Wind scorpions, Solifugid.
Despite their fearsome appearance and their strong bite, solifugids are unlikely to harm humans. In the past they were considered venomous and extremely dangerous but it is now thought that the only risk of injury resulting from them is caused by shock or infection following a bite. There is no evidence of venom in any part of their body
This weird looking arachnid is not in fact a scorpion or spider at all but belongs to its own order- solifugid. This species can attain a leg span of 5" and a body of 2". Wind spiders are fast moving aggressive hunters, capable of over powering much larger prey than itself. Its front pair of legs are modified as feelers to detect and pull its prey into its large over sized jaws. Its three pairs of legs are capable of speed making this creature a fast moving killing machine.
They're not quite as big as your hand (unless you're a five-year-old), and very shy and secretive. They do like to hide in the shadows, and they do run very, very quickly for a critter (they can reach about 10 MPH, the fastest known non-flying arthropod). They make no noise whatsoever, they have no venom whatsoever, and they do not eat flesh--they eat small desert arthropods like crickets and pillbugs. The rumors of their attacking camels, or crawling onto sleeping GIs' faces, apparently stem from one of two things, both of which may be true to some extent: (1) they may use hair to line their burrow when they are about to lay a batch of eggs, said hair being clipped from dead camels or other dead mammals (and a sleeping GI is not much different), and/or (2) dead camels are covered with flies, and crawling over a camel corpse may make for a convenient way to get a good meal of flies.
We have camel spiders in the sandy parts of the southwest U.S. and Mexico (in Mexico they are called matevenados), considerably smaller than the Middle Eastern types, but of the same shy, unassuming habits. Completely harmless and beneficial critters, like the desert equivalent of a praying mantis.