Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ammotrecha nymphaeae

No specimen of the POND-LILY SOLIFUGID (Ammotrecha nymphaeae), living or dead, has yet been obtained, but Dr. Blymphinson (ibid.) did manage to produce a spectacular daguerréotype from his survey of Persian oases during the early months of 1871. The singular habits of this animal will explain how it can be elusive to the extreme, yet still enough, when sighted, for a photographic plate to retain its image.

It is the only arachnid of its order to make its home around water; the only, in fact, not to flourish in severe aridity. Its name results from its colorless husk and propensity to float on its back — legs heavenward, drifting but otherwise motionless, suspended (we must conclude) by the minute air-pockets that cluster along the bristles of all such arthropods. But should a foreign element (such as a frog, or even a large fly) disturb its peace, the passing resemblance to a water-lily will go the way of a mirage in the deserts nearby. The limbs, like grasping talons, will close sharply around the unwitting guest, and both parties will plummet instantly into the pond’s depths, where, we may presume, the victory feast ensues. The remarkable speed it displays in such maneuvers, coupled with the large and painful bites Solifugae are known to inflict, have hindered efforts to trap the animal up to now.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Fauna, 3rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1872: p. 618.