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Scorpions: Facts and Info

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Read on to learn interesting facts and info on scorpions, one of nature's most resilient and dangerous creatures.

Read on to learn interesting facts and info on scorpions, one of nature's most resilient and dangerous creatures.

Scorpions Are Nature's Armored Survivalists

With pincers ever-poised for combat and an exoskeleton composed of the same material as human fingernails, the scorpion is the spike-wheeled tank of the insect world.

In some cultures, it represents evil and malicious intent, while in others, it's a stalwart guardian standing watch over royalty. Some even associate scorpions with sexuality, signified by their elaborate courtship ritual where the male and female dance around each other while interlocking their pincers.

But one thing all can agree on is that the scorpion is the ultimate survivor.

The Black Scorpion is a dangerous species found in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

The Black Scorpion is a dangerous species found in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Scorpions Are Highly Adapted Creatures

There's no denying that the scorpion has an intimidating appearance, but that is simply a reflection of the hostile environment in which it thrives.

Widely assumed to be a desert-dwelling creature, in truth, the scorpion is built to endure a variety of habitats.

It can alter its metabolic rate, enabling it to go a year without food if need be.

It can survive being frozen overnight. A scorpion placed in the deep freeze and removed the following day will simply carry on its merry way once the ice has melted.

But one of the few things that can foil a scorpion's plans is lack of soil. They are nocturnal creatures and sensitive to light, so they seek to burrow underground or hide under rocks during the day. As such, a scorpion may not be able to survive in an area with heavy vegetation or permafrost.

Scorpions have limited vision but a powerful sense of smell. They are sensitive to vibrations and can use their tails to detect (and thereby avoid) light.

These crickets are no match for the dreaded scorpion.

These crickets are no match for the dreaded scorpion.

Giant Scorpions Once Roamed the Ocean

Evidence of scorpion existence dates back at least 430 million years. They are the oldest known land-dwelling animals to inhabit Gondwana (one of the two super-continents formed when Pangaea split around 200 million years ago).

However, there is evidence that the ancient ancestor of the scorpion inhabited the ocean rather than the land and ruled the aquatic food chain in much the same way as sharks do today.

A fossilized claw belonging to the species eurypterid, which lived between 460 and 255 million years ago, was discovered in a quarry in Germany. The claw size indicates that the scorpion in question may have been as long as 2.5 meters.

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Today, scorpions can be found on every landmass in the world (except Antarctica).

Scorpion Mating Dance

How Do Scorpions Reproduce?

Despite being solitary creatures by nature, scorpions do engage in sexual reproduction.

But don't be fooled by their elaborate courtship rituals; a female scorpion will sometimes eat the male once the mating process is complete. As far as scorpions are concerned, romance is dead, as is the male if he sticks around too long.

Male scorpions travel considerable distances to find mates. The female emits a pheromone from her abdomen that males seek out and hone in on. The courtship dance of scorpions is known as promenade à deux and can be seen in the video above.

The male secrets a fluid that forms a stalk with a spermatophore at its end. He swivels and shifts to make contact with the female's gonopore, or genital opening; upon contact, the spermatophore ejects spermatozoa into the opening.

Scorpion mothers give birth to live babies, which is very unusual for non-mammalian animals. Generally, females can mate several times. There are even a couple of scorpion species that are known to become pregnant without mating, a process known as parthenogenesis. This involves the development of a female gamete without fertilization.

The spermatophore of a Heterometrus phipsoni after insemination, length ca. 10.5 millimeters (laboratory photo). Heterometrus is a genus of scorpion usually referred to as giant forest scorpions. They primarily live in the tropics of Southeast Asia.

The spermatophore of a Heterometrus phipsoni after insemination, length ca. 10.5 millimeters (laboratory photo). Heterometrus is a genus of scorpion usually referred to as giant forest scorpions. They primarily live in the tropics of Southeast Asia.

Scorpion Motherhood

Motherhood is a different story. Female scorpions are protective of their litter, carrying them around on their back until they are ready to molt.

That said, not even the babies are guaranteed safety. Mother scorpions do occasionally eat their young. It's uncertain why this happens, but it may be an instinctive mechanism to prevent overpopulation.

Scorpion Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy is about two to ten years in the wild, though scorpions in captivity have been known to live as long as 25 years.

A mother Striped Back Scorpion carrying her litter near Fredericksburg, Texas.

A mother Striped Back Scorpion carrying her litter near Fredericksburg, Texas.

Scorpion Venom: The Power to Both Harm and Heal

All scorpions are venomous, but only 25 of 1,500 known species are actually dangerous to humans, and out of those, the majority are unlikely to pose a threat to a healthy adult. Children and the elderly are most at risk.

Potentially lethal species include:

  1. Bark Scorpion
  2. Yellow Fat Tail Scorpion
  3. Deathstalker
  4. Brazilian Yellow Scorpion
  5. Spitting Thick Tail Black Scorpion

1. Bark Scorpion

Commonly found in Arizona, USA, just a small dose of its venom can cause severe pain. Thankfully antivenom is widely available, so there have been no recorded deaths from its sting in several decades.

2. Yellow Fat Tail Scorpion

Found in desert regions in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Its venom causes at least several deaths a year, usually by heart or respiratory failure.

3. Deathstalker

This aptly named species dwells in the Sahara, the Arabian desert, and parts of Asia. Their sting can cause pancreatitis and excess fluid buildup in the lungs.

4. Brazilian Yellow Scorpion

The most dangerous scorpion in South America, its sting causes an average of 3,000 deaths a year, making it deadlier than all other venomous creatures on the continent combined, including snakes and spiders.

5. Spitting Thick Tail Black Scorpion

Found in the southern regions of Africa, the poison of its sting is as potent as cyanide. As the name suggests, this genuinely terrifying arachnid can spit its venom up to a distance of one meter.

The Healing Properties of Scorpion Venom

Believe it or not, scorpion venom could potentially have powerful healing properties. Scientists have conducted experiments using venom to treat brain tumors, theorizing that it could paralyze cancerous cells while leaving the healthy cells unharmed.

Furthermore, traditional Chinese medicine has long utilized dried scorpion powder as an antidote for toxins. Some Chinese herbal compounds have even shown a therapeutic effect on nerve protection and epilepsy.

So the scorpion's incredible resilience is reflected in the power of its venom, which has the capacity to harm or heal.

The Grasshopper Mouse is an amazing (and cute) rodent from the Sonoran desert of Arizona that is totally unphased by the sting of the Arizona Bark Scorpion, one of the most deadly scorpions in the United States.

The Grasshopper Mouse is an amazing (and cute) rodent from the Sonoran desert of Arizona that is totally unphased by the sting of the Arizona Bark Scorpion, one of the most deadly scorpions in the United States.

The venom of the Arizona Bark Scorpion, despite being lethal against insects, snakes, and even birds, has been found to be utterly harmless against the grasshopper mouse. In fact, it actually acts as an effective painkiller, making the mouse even more mellow with each sting.

This is a rather frustrating experience for the scorpion, who will inevitably end up in the rodent's belly.

This mouse survives these potent and sophisticated venomous stings by virtue of a specific defense against the venom: a built-in protein housed in its nerve cells that binds to the toxin and blocks it.

Arizona Bark Scorpion Versus Grasshopper Mouse

References

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