Camel spider (Solifugae) use of prairie dog colonies

TitleCamel spider (Solifugae) use of prairie dog colonies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsDuval B.D., Whitford WG
JournalWestern North American Naturalist
Start Page272
Date Published07/2009
ARIS Log Number243616
Keywordsblack-tailed prairie dogs, Chihuahuan Desert, ecosystem engineering, grassland ecology, Solifugae

Solifugids (camel spiders) are widespread throughout arid regions of western North America and are thought to be important in structuring desert arthropod communities. Despite the ubiquity of camel spiders, little is known about their ecology. Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are also widespread in western North America and are important ecosystem engineers, but they have been reduced in extent because of human activity. Here we report significantly greater numbers of camel spiders on black-tailed prairie dog colonies in southern New Mexico. The difference in vegetation structure created by prairie dog activity is likely the reason for the increased prevalence of camel spiders on colonies. Because camel spiders are important predators and prey, the observation that colonies support higher numbers of these animals provides a mechanism explaining differences in arthropod communities on and off colonies and explaining the preferential foraging behavior of vertebrates associated with prairie dog colonies.