Solifugids (lit. "sun-fleers", after their habit of hiding from bright lights), also known as solifuges or, more colloquially, as camel spiders, sun spiders and wind scorpions, are an order of arachnids related to true spiders and scorpions and chiefly found in deserts and other arid areas. They possess a fearsome reputation in urban legends and popular fiction, where they typically appear as intensely aggressive desert terrors that will attack humans at the slightest provocation. They are often portrayed as highly venomous; traditionally, their bites are described as being either paralytic or outright deadly.
The urban legend originates from encounters with these creatures by soldiers stationed in North Africa and the Middle East in modern conflicts. The soldiers described these creatures as gigantic, capable of running at extreme speeds and aggressive enough to attack humans and camels. Pictures posted by American soldiers duly made their rounds on the internet where, between dramatic posing, the strange appearance of the creatures, their unfamiliarity to most audiences and the grapevine effect, they were swiftly made out to be terrifying monsters.
In real life, however, very little of this holds out. Real solifugids aren't terribly aggressive — they don't usually go after prey larger than big arthropods or smaller mice and lizards. They're also one of the few orders of arachnids to be entirely non-venomous — meaning not that they happen to possess venom that simply isn't strong enough to be more than an irritant to anything larger than a rat, as is the case with most spiders, but that they lack any venom glands or ducts whatsoever. Solifugids rely exclusively on strength and their enlarged, powerful jaws to bring down prey.
It's not impossible to see where this reputation has come from, however. Solifugids are exotic creatures, for one — they're not found in Europe or in most of North America, and for tourists, soldiers and explorers from those areas wild solifugids are thus something of an unknown quantity. Solifugids are also very fast runners and ferocious hunters of their natural prey, and their reliance on biting to subdue their food means that their jaws are proportionally immense compared to a spider's or a scorpion's. Also, their drive to get out of the sun is so powerful that they really do run towards people to rest in their shadows, adding to the startle factor in people who don't know what they are.
Compare Spiders Are Scary and Scary Scorpions, for other arachnids portrayed as much more dangerous than they are in real life, as well as Creepy Centipedes. See also Seldom-Seen Species, as solifugids feature in fiction much less often than spiders and scorpions do.
- Camel Spiders freely indulges in the stock portrayal of the titular creatures, which are depicted as insanely aggressive, swarming terrors with paralyzing bites that freely attack humans after being introduced to the American Southwest (where, it should be noted, solifugids are native anyway).
- King Kong (2005): Moonspiders, a type of large but not unrealistically so sun spiders, are among the various giant invertebrates native to the abyss of Skull Island's central ravine. While the movie and tie-in book depict them as fairly realistic creatures that prey chiefly on small vertebrates and flee from anything bigger than themselves, the game portrays them as invincible, swarming enemies that will kill the player in one hit.
- Urban legends habitually describe solifugids as fearsome, almost alien monsters. They're often claimed to attack sleeping people at night, utilizing an anesthetic venom to prevent them from noticing them as they shear off and eat chunks of flesh. They're also claimed to grow to be the size of cats, run at twenty-five miles per hour, jump up to two feet in the air, make a screaming noise as they run, have a venom powerful enough to melt flesh, and attack and kill camels to lay their eggs in their stomachs. In reality, solifuges never grow beyond six inches in length, have a top speed of ten miles an hour, can't jump, don't even produce venom (although their powerful jaws can pinch a human painfully), and don't seem to emit any noises more startling than a soft stridulating sound that a cricket would put to shame. The idea that they attack camels and humans comes from their name; "Solifugae" means "those that flee from the sun", which is exactly what they're doing. Dead camels and humans provide shadows for them to use to get out of bright desert sunlight. Aside from all that, they're not even exclusive to the Middle East, also being native to the American Southwest.
- Monsterquest: "Monster Spiders", alongside a hunt for supposed five-foot spiders in the Amazon, depicts a highly dramatized search for the truth behind the solifuge myth. They recount most of the stock urban legend portrayals, test whether wild solifuges might try to eat a pig's foot, and ultimately conclude that there's probably nothing behind the myth beyond exaggerations by startled soldiers, although the episode ends with a note that gigantic meat-eating monster solifuges may exist out there somewhere.
- Primeval: Episode 1.2 features a swarm of a fictional species of gigantic, highly aggressive solifugids that came through a rift leading to the Carboniferous.
- One German zoologist, Anton August Heinrich Lichtenstein, suggested the mice that terrorised the Philistines were actually camel spiders.
- Pathfinder: Solifugids, like most other arthropods, are portrayed as highly aggressive animals and in a range in increasingly titanic sizes, including razormouth solifugids that causes grievous wounds in those they bite and duneshaker solifugids larger than giants. The bestiary, however, correctly notes that, in-universe rumors to the contrary, solifugids possess no poison (barring the aforementioned duneshakers, which can spew a potent venom at enemies).
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The frostbite spiders are clearly modeled on camel spiders, but appearance is as far as the resemblance goes as, unlike camel spiders, frostbite spiders are venomous — they can spit their venom, for that matter — and spin webs. They also tend to jump on top of the player to attack them and are often found alongside the desiccated corpses of their victims.
- 8-Bit Theater: Drizz'l temporarily defeats Fighter by putting a camel spider in his hair, listing out a grandiose description of these creatures' danger and aggressiveness and sending Fighter in a screaming panic.
- Battle Kreaturez features Kraaster and its meta-form Kraaspine; Mons based on Solifugids, embellished with traits from scorpions, wolf spiders and harvestmen.
- Mortasheen: Played with with the Exothresher, a fusion of human and solifugid DNA. It is a genetic abomination that can shred flesh "like a blender", but that's fairly mundane for the setting. Other human-arthropod fusions are much more dangerous, including those based on "cuter" arthropods like the ladybug. True to real-world biology, it's also non-venomous.
- Solifugid, a Creepypasta, has a camel spider the size of a camel as its Monster of the Week. It's about as nice as a rabid blender and kills everyone but the narrator.
- Conversed in these two online articles about "camel spiders". They point out that despite what people may have heard, camel spiders don't eat bigger animals (like humans or camels), don't have venom, are only five centimetres long, can't jump really high or run 25 miles an hour, don't lay their eggs in camels' skin, and don't scream; they buzz or hiss instead.
- The Roman writer Aelian blamed a plague of scorpions and solifugids for causing the abandonment of a country in Ethiopia.
- Solifugids and scorpions are natural enemies, and prey upon each other. So this trope complements the Scary Scorpions trope.