Solifugae (Arachnida): Indigenous Southern African names and their meanings
The order Solifugae (Arachnida) often has the word ‘spider’ (e.g. sunspider, camelspider) or ‘scorpion’ (e.g. windscorpion) as the main descriptor in its common names. Being neither a spider nor a scorpion, we suggest ‘solifuge’, derived from the scientific name of the order, as the most neutral English vernacular name for these arachnids. Southern Africa is rich in solifuge diversity, which is also reflected in the rich and imaginative local vernacular names of this group. These names allude to myths associated with solifuges, to their characteristic behaviours, or to their unique and striking morphology. Here we briefly translate and discuss 40 vernacular terms used for solifuges in 25 languages and dialects in southern Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), plus seven names in five languages in East Africa. Recognising solifuges as a distinct group, referred to by its own set of vernacular names, seem to be more common in rural, compared to urban areas. The conservation of indigenous names of animals might be inextricably linked to the conservation of these animals.
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