Week fifty-five: SOLPUGID (probability 21820), by David Sutton

A SOLPUGID is one of an order of venomous arachnids, also known as camel spiders, sun spiders or wind scorpions, remarkable for their powerful jaws, voracious appetite and fast running.

Arachnids, let's face it, do not have much a fan club. You will find ARACHNOPHOBIA on the list, meaning a morbid fear of spiders, and ARACHNOPHOBE, one suffering from this, but these are not countered by ARACHNOPHILIA* and ARACHNOPHILE*. Still, this class of arthropods, that includes, in addition to spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites, has given us some interesting words. There is, for example, the MYGALE, an American bird-catching spider, which takes its name from the Greek mygale, a fieldmouse. It's hairy and can grow to about 18 cm across, but it doesn't look much like a fieldmouse to me; one can only think that some early naturalist had mislaid his spectacles one day and suffered a rather worrying case of misodentification.

Then there is the KATIPO, a venomous spider of New Zealand, with a red spot on its back. Speaking of venom, one should mention the old name for a spider ATTERCOP (or ETHERCAP or ETTERCAP), which means 'venom head'; readers of 'The Hobbit' will remember how Bilbo taunts the giant spiders of Mirkwood with this name.

Moving on to TICKS, we have IXODID, a hard-bodied tick that can transmit a variety of diseases including tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the venomous S. African TAMPAN. One variety of tampan is known as the sand tampan; it spends most of its time under the sand where it waits for animals to rest in the shade of trees, then climbs on to them.

Mites contribute ORIBATID, an eyeless soil mite.

Finally, scorpions contribute a possible if unlikely extension to VINEGAR, in the form of VINEGARROON, a large whip scorpion.


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