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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Arachnida (spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, etc.)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata

Araneae (spiders)

Nephila pilipes (Black-legged golden orb-web spider)

Scorpiones (scorpions)


Amblypygi (amblypygids, whip spiders)

Seventeen genera and 136 species worldwide, with four genera and seven species native to southern Africa. Found mainly in the tropics and subtropics, occurring under rocks, in crevices and under bark (Harvey 2003).

Uropygi (whip scorpions)

There are 103 species worldwide but none of them occur in southern Africa. There are four subfamilies: the Hypoctoninae occur in west Africa and SE Asia; the Mastigoproctinae are distributed through the Americas and SE Asia; the Thelyphoninae are found is Asia and the southwest Pacific; and the Typopeltinae are limited to east Asia (Harvey 2003).

Opiliones (harvestmen)

Acari (mites and ticks)

Solifugae (solifuges / sun spiders / red romans / baardskeerders)

There are 12 families, 140 genera and 1075 species of solifuges worldwide, with six families, 30 genera and 241 species recorded from southern Africa. Thus, 22% of the world solifuge species occur in southern Africa.  The Northern Cape (81 species) and Namibia have the highest number of species.

Palpigradi (palpigrades)

Palpigrades are very small, pale-coloured arachnids that live soil, leaf litter, and caves. There are six genera and 78 species worldwide, with only one genus and species, Eukoenenia lawrencei, recorded from southern Africa. 

Ricinulei (ricinuleids)

There are 55 species worldwide but none of them occur in southern Africa. Ricinuleids are found in tropical forests and caves of central America, and western and central Africa (Harvey 2003).

Schizomida (schizomids)

Usually smaller than 5 mm long and are rarely over one cm long. They are found mainly in tropical and subtropical environments, where they live under rocks, in soil and leaf litter, or in caves. There are 38 genera and 218 species worldwide with only one genus (Megaschizomus) and two species recorded from southern Africa.



  • Harvey MS. 2003. Catalogue of the smaller arachnid orders of the world. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.