Global Survey and Inventory of Solifugae

This website originated as part of the Global Survey and Inventory of Solifugae, funded by the Biodiversity Surveys and Inventories program of the U.S. National Science Foundation (Grants 0640219 and 0640245), a project that sought to bring together an international team of researchers in an effort to stimulate new research, correct deficient trends evident in past research, and improve our knowledge of the poorly known arachnids in the order Solifugae. The stated aims of this project, which received its initial funding in 2005, were, as stated in the original proposal:


  • to conduct Fieldwork in 13 countries in four regions of greatest known diversity to discover new species, document distributions, and gather fresh material for morphological, anatomical, behavioral and genetic studies

  • to revise the higher classification based on phylogenetic analysis

  • to publish monographs on large monophyletic groups (at least three family-scale revisions)

  • to employ rigorous standards and modern techniques in research

  • to forge collaborations among specialists currently working largely in isolation, and to provide resources to expand their research

  • to train new experts in traditional techniques as well as modern concepts and methods

  • to disseminate results to the public via the internet

This project, coordinated in North America but involving the world’s solifuge specialists and arachnologists interested in diverse aspects of solifuge research in more than 17 countries, sought to invigorate solifuge research worldwide.  To accomplish this, the following tasks were proposed:


    Collaboration and Training:


  • Provide resources for collaboration and networking among the world’s solifuge specialists and arachnologists interested in solifuge research in 17 countries

  • Train a PhD student from Namibia, the country with the world’s greatest solifuge diversity, who will revise a solifuge family dominant in southern Africa

  • Assist a specialist with few resources to complete his PhD on the systematics of solifuges in central Asia, another region of high diversity

  • Assist two postdoctoral specialists on solifuge anatomy and a Masters student studying solifuge behavior with their research

  • Involve graduate, undergraduate, and high school students, as well as volunteers, in research in several countries of high solifuge diversity: Argentina, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, Turkey, U.S.A

  • Diversity Inventories:


  • Conduct research and inventories of Solifugae in 13 countries in four regions of greatest diversity (Figure 1): the Afrotropical (Namibia, South Africa, Kenya), Palearctic (Israel, Turkey, Egypt, three central Asian republics), Nearctic (Mexico, southwestern U.S.A.) and Neotropical (Argentina, Chile) regions

  • Provide resources for further inventories by arachnologists interested in Solifugae in these countries

  • Inventory and database solifuge collections in these countries and the major historical collections in Europe

  • Morphology, Anatomy, Cytogenetic and Behavior Surveys:


  • Survey and document the external morphology,internal anatomy, cytogenetics, and reproductive behavior of the major taxonomic groups (families and subfamilies) using field-collected material

  • Incorporate data from these studies into a higher-level phylogenetic analysis of Solifugae and use them in diagnostic keys to solifuge families and subfamilies, and through the survey, stimulate further research into such topics as the function of the male flagellum and nature of the solifuge karyotype.

  • Higher Phylogeny, Classification and Biogeography:


  • Reconstruct the phylogeny of solifuge families and subfamilies, sampling exemplars from as many genera as possible, using DNA, external morphology, internal anatomy, cytogenetic and behavioral data.

  • Revise the suprageneric classification (based on monophyly), develop workable diagnostic keys to families and subfamilies (based on synapomorphies), and test biogeographical and evolutionary hypotheses.

  • Revisionary Syntheses:


  • Revise the taxonomy of three solifuge families, using freshly-collected and existing museum material and employing modern concepts and methods, including automatically generated descriptions, digital imaging of specimens and morphological characters, quantitative phylogenetic analysis of morphological and molecular data, mapping and spatial analysis of distributions with GIS, and the development of interactive diagnostic keys to the genera

  • Use phylogenies produced during these revisions to test adaptational and biogeographical hypotheses within the families, e.g., trends in ecomorphology or life history and Gondwana distribution patterns

  • Develop molecular markers (‘barcodes’) to assist with identifying females and immatures

  • Specimen Documentation, Storage and Archiving:


  • Gather geographical coordinates and elevation of collection localities with portable Garmin® GPS devices, along with other data (locality, collector, date, habitat, collection method), habitat and habitus photos

  • Deposit type material in institutions in the country of origin and synoptic collections of nontype material in US and foreign collections

  • Deposit tissue samples (for storage in liquid nitrogen at -150°C) in the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research (http://research.amnh.org/amcc/database/)

  • Museum Collections:


  • Borrow or examine in situ type and non-type specimens from the world’s major collections and database this material in order to:

  • enable assessment of geographical variation and determination of characters consistent across the range of each morphospecies

  • facilitate identification of autapomorphies or unique diagnostic character combinations (for species delimitation) and synapomorphies (for phylogenetic analysis)

  • provide an accurate idea of past and present distributions by documenting known locality records

  • Databasing, Georeferencing and Mapping:


  • Database and georeference an estimated 18,000 specimen-lots (Fig. 2) from the world’s museums (newly collected material will be databased and georeferenced upon acquisition, and previously databased museum material

  • Capture collection data in a customized, Darwin Core-compliant specimen database developed at the AMNH for an NSF-funded PBI: Miridae project, maintained on the AMNH server (http://research.amnh.org/pbi/catalog/)

  • Provide online interactive mapping of distributions via the specimen database, using tools developed by the team at Discover Life (http://www.discoverlife.org)

  • Imaging of Type Specimens:


  • Image type specimens and capture collection data, using the online database and a portable Nikon microscope and associated digital camera

  • Photograph habitus (dorsal and ventral), flagellum, genital operculum, ctenidia, and other characters for producing and documenting the morphological data matrix for phylogenetic analysis