I’m an animal lover, and I can usually find appreciation for almost every creature on earth. But scorpions aren’t one of them. I am entirely creeped out by them.
I would say it’s pretty common to be afraid of scorpions with their whiplike, stinging tail, and those giant pinchers. But just because most of us are freaked out by them, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn a few things about them.
After all, knowledge is power, even when that knowledge makes your skin crawl!
Scorpions have live babies, their venom can kill, and they glow in the dark, among other things.
I will teach you ten really interesting facts about these critters in this article. You might be a bit surprised! I know I was!
A Short History of the Scorpion
Scorpions have been around since the Silurian Period, which was about 443 million years ago. They most likely evolved from a water arachnid, and the earliest evidence of scorpions shows that they were amphibious.
Sea Scorpions were also quite large, possibly up to three feet long. In comparison to today’s largest scorpion, that is a drastic difference. Today, the largest scorpion is the Asian Forest Scorpion, which grows to about nine inches.
Fossils show that the scorpion had gills and needed water to survive, but they evolved to have enclosed lungs instead of gills, which was a major part of their transition to becoming land animals.
Today scorpions are found in deserts, subtropical and tropical environments and can be found everywhere except Antarctica and Greenland. However, some species have been found in southern Canada and Russia.
Now that we know a little about their history let’s check out some cool facts about scorpions.
- Scorpions are arachnids
- They glow
- They have live babies
- They dance before mating
- They have strange eating habits
- Their venom is powerful
- They can be deadly
- They have longevity
- They are tough
- Their venom has some healing properties
Scorpions are Arachnids
Scorpions fall into the arachnid category, which also contains spiders, ticks, and mites. What makes a critter an arachnid is that most of them have a body that is segmented into two parts. The front part of their body has four legs, but they do not have an antenna.
Scorpions are part of a bigger group called chelicerates which also include horseshoe crabs and sea spiders. This makes a lot of sense since scorpions originated from sea creatures.
Chelicerates are not classified as insects, as they have eight legs instead of six, which most adult insects have. Chelicerates also have two appendages, the pedipalps, and chelicerae. In scorpions, the chelicerae take the form of mouthparts, and their pedipalps are pincers.
All adult scorpions glow due to the fluorescent chemicals in the cuticle of their exoskeleton. Called the hyaline layer, this part of their makeup causes them to glow in ultraviolet lights.
Scientists have a few theories when it comes to the reason scorpions glow. Some claim it is because of a chemical reaction in their bodies, which allows them to lure their prey and keep predators away.
Other scientists think they glow to convert the moon’s light into blue-green, the color they see best as they have incredibly sensitive eyes.
Another theory is that scorpions glow so they can locate one another in the dark, and it also helps them to hunt their prey.
No matter the reasoning behind this, the fact that scorpions glow is beneficial to humans as it is easier to avoid them. Those camping or hiking in the darkness can easily locate scorpions with ultraviolet light.
Scorpions Give Birth to Live Babies
Most invertebrates and arachnids lay eggs. But the scorpion gives birth to live babies. Depending on the species, gestation is anywhere from two to eighteen months. Babies are born looking just like their mother, only smaller and with a softer body.
Baby scorpions stay on their mother’s back for protection, as she is known to be a strong defender of her young. She teaches them to hunt for their food but is there to protect them at all costs.
Some species of scorpions will stay with mom for almost two years! I guess this makes scorpions pretty great in the mom department.
Scorpions Dance Before They Mate
Like many species in the animal kingdom, scorpions have a courtship ritual called the promenade à deux, French for “walk for two.”
In some species, the female shows interest in the male, and if he is interested back, they will face each other and hold on to one another’s pedipalps. They then move back and forth, raising their tails before bumping their torsos together.
Scientists call this behavior “clubbing,” which I find hysterical because I can picture two scorpions dancing at a club!
This dance can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and when they are done, the male deposits his sperm on the ground for the female before leaving.
Scorpions Have Interesting Eating Habits
Scorpions primarily eat insects and spiders, but larger species enjoy mice, snakes, and small lizards for dinner. And they have some pretty interesting hunting and eating habits.
Many scorpions are ambush predators, meaning they sit and wait until a victim moves past them. They are quite keen on sensing vibrations in the ground as well as the vibrations in the air from flying insects.
Once they have captured their prey, they will sting it if it is on the larger or more aggressive side. Because they can control how much venom they release, they are pretty cautious when using it as it also requires a great deal of energy to release. Otherwise, the prey is held by the scorpion’s pincers as it is consumed.
Scorpions can only eat in liquid form, so they inject their prey with enzymes as they suck it through their small mouths. Scorpions are also very slow to metabolize food and can usually go long periods between meals.
While they usually feed every couple of weeks, they can go up to a year without eating.
Their Venom is Powerful Stuff
While all scorpions have venom, it is different depending on the species. Only 2 percent of scorpions are believed to contain venom that can kill a human. But that venom poses a serious threat if one is stung.
One scorpion can produce several toxins in their venom, including cardiotoxins, neurotoxins, nephrotoxins, and hemolytic toxins. Some of these toxins are only effective on certain kinds of prey.
Scorpions also use their venom to protect themselves from predators such as lizards, birds, mammals, and centipedes.
That Two Percent of Scorpions is Deadly
While only two percent of scorpions have deadly venom, it’s still deadly after all. The scorpions that pose the biggest risk to humans are as follows.
The Bark Scorpion
Found mainly in Arizona and the southwestern United States and into Mexico is the Bark Scorpion. Their venom packs a powerful punch of neurotoxins that cause debilitating pain.
It has been described as a feeling like electric shocks and includes side effects such as numbness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If left untreated, there is only up to twenty-five percent of survival.
Thankfully, there is an anti-venom, and there have not been any casualties in the past forty years.
The Deathstalker Scorpion
Yes, it is actually called the Deathstalker, which should be enough to scare anyone. While this scorpion is quite small, his venom packs a huge punch.
Thankfully she is normally found in the vast deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, where she poses less of a threat.
If stung, you’ll be in for not only a painful sting but a deadly cocktail of toxins that can kill even the healthiest people. Pancreatitis and pulmonary edema are the most common causes of death in victims.
The Yellow Fat Tail Scorpion
Found either in the deserts of North Africa or Southeast Asia, the Yellow Fat Tail Scorpion has been dubbed Androctonus in scientific terms.
The term is Greek for “man-killer,” as it poses one of the most powerful toxins in scorpions.
The venom quickly compromises the central nervous system, causing paralysis, respiratory failure, and death if not treated. There is an anti-venom, though if not treated immediately, death can occur in as little as two hours.
Spitting Thick Tail Black Scorpion
One of the biggest scorpions in the world is the Spitting Thick Tail Black Scorpion. Found in southern Africa, its stinger can deliver enough venom to kill an adult male.
The venom of this scorpion is as potent as cyanide. However, the first part of the sting may be more of a warning. If the creature still feels threatened, a potentially lethal dose is released.
What gives this scorpion its name is that it can literally spit its venom up to three feet, which can cause permanent damage if it gets in the eyes of its victim.
Thankfully a very small percentage of people have died as a result of this scorpion’s sting. But if stung, expect to feel excruciating pain, muscle convulsions, sweating, drooling, and a racing heart.
They Live a Long Time
Arthropods generally do not live a very long life, especially when compared to other creatures. Most live only weeks or months, and in the case of the mayfly, just a few days.
This is where the scorpion differs, as they are the arthropods with the longest lifespans. They can live up to ten years in the wild, but the average is about three. Their longevity depends wholly on temperature, food accessibility, and predators.
They Are Pretty Tough
Scorpions are the ultimate survivors. They can live up to a year without food, which we already know. Because they have book lungs, they can stay underwater for up to two days.
Scorpions also only use about one-tenth of the oxygen other insects use, making them almost indestructible.
Their Venom Has Some Healing Properties
Although their venom does have considerable risks, it also has many beneficial chemicals. Some of these chemicals have yet to be discovered, but we know that the venom of the Deathstalker contains chlorotoxin, which is helpful in the management of certain tumors.
The venom of the Asian Scorpion contains antimicrobials that can be helpful against certain fungi and bacteria. It is also helpful against parasites like malaria. Its venom also has properties that make it a great anti-inflammatory.
Other types of scorpion venom can potentially help with treating certain autoimmune diseases.
While writing about scorpions has not helped me to feel any less creeped out by them, I will admit they are pretty interesting.
From their deadly venom to their ability to stay alive, it is easy to see why scorpions are a pretty neat species after all.
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:How Deadly Are Scorpions? The Answer May Surprise You!
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