Amblypygi is an order of invertebrate animals belonging to the class Arachnida, in the subphylum Chelicerata of the phylum Arthropoda. They form a separate order of arachnids alongside the spiders, scorpions and others.
Native to New Zealand and Australasia.
Amblypygids are also known as whip spiders and tailless whip scorpions (not to be confused with whip scorpions that belong to the Arachnid order Thelyphonida). The name "amblypygid" means "blunt rump", a reference to a lack of the telson ("tail") carried by related species. Despite an offputting appearance, they are harmless to humans.
Amblipygids possess medium to poor eyesight, however their pedipalps, which serve as sensors for many akin arachnids, are modified and inward-adapted for grabbing and retaining prey, much like those of a praying mantis. The first pair of legs are also modified and act as sensory organs, while the animal uses the other six legs for walking. The sensory legs are very thin, have numerous sensory receptors, and can extend several times the length of body. Typically, the animal holds one of these legs out in front of it as it moves, and uses the other to probe the terrain to the side.
Amblypygids possess no silk glands or venomous fangs, however their chelicerae do eject a digestive acidic enzyme, unlike those of sun spiders, for example. They rarely bite if threatened, but can grab fingers with pedipalps, resulting in thorn-like puncture injury.
Courting rituals involve the male depositing stalked spermatophores, which have one or more sperm masses at the tip, onto the ground, and using his pedipalps to guide the female over them. She gathers the sperm and lays fertilized eggs into a sac carried under the abdomen. When the young hatch, they climb up onto the mother's back; any which fall off before their first moult will be eaten by the mother.
Amblypygids, particularly the species Phrynus marginemaculatus and Damon diadema, are thought to be among the few examples of arachnids which show signs of social behavior. Research conducted by entomologists at Cornell University suggests that mother amblypygids communicate with their young by caressing the offspring with her anteniform front legs, and that the offspring reciprocate both with their mother and their siblings. Further, in an experiment where two or more siblings were placed in an unfamiliar environment, such as a different cage, they would seek each other out and gather back into a group.
Large pieces of cork bark should be placed as close to the sides of the tank as possible, to give the animal a tight space in which to hide. Amblypygids are nocturnal, so the tank should be placed on a shelf with solid sides or enough cork bark positioned around the tank so that the animal can be hidden from view. A wire mesh top should also be used, to give the animal another purchase from which to molt.
Substrate should be kept moist and needs to be watered down every one to two days. Standing water in the tank will not hurt an amblypygid, although wetting the soil is all that is necessary, and certain desert species should be kept drier than that. Lack of humidity will kill an amblypygid much quicker than lack of food, so watering is crucial to care.
The most important step in breeding amblypygids is to place their cage in a place where it will not be jostled or disturbed. Amblypygids are very sensitive to vibrations, and if bothered while in the courtship period may not be receptive to one another. Pregnant mothers should also be kept undisturbed, especially in the first week after the eggs hatch; if newly emerged young fall off their mother’s back they will not survive. Place the tank with the male and female in a location where no one will bump the tank, table, or come too close.
Aside from their extreme sensitivity to vibrations and disturbances, amblypygids are fairly easy to breed. The most crucial step in the process is to make sure that the container in which the mating pair is placed is in an isolated area where they will not be disturbed.