- A-Z Animals
Scorpions are arachnids, i.e., arthropods that have eight legs, belonging to the same category as spiders and lobsters. They are easily recognizable from their distinct claws and a narrow, curved tail ending in a stinger. This stinger helps them to both hunt prey and defend themselves from predators.
Having undergone evolution from 435 million years ago to the present day, scorpions nowadays have 22 recognized families. They have been featured heavily in human art, folklore, and symbols due to their striking appearance.
There are over 1,500 classified species, but probably over 2,000 worldwide. These are some common ones:
Size: Length: 0.25-8.2 in (6.5 mm – 21 cm)
The smallest species is the Caribbean species Microtityus fundorai at 0.5 in, while the flat-rock scorpion is the largest at 8.2 in.
Weight: 0.02 to 0.2 oz (0.5 to 5 g)
The heaviest scorpion is the emperor scorpion at 2 oz (60 g).
Stinger: While not an actual tail, a sharp stinger with venom glands is observed at the end of the abdomen, closely resembling a needle.
Body and Coloration: Scorpions have eight legs and two central body regions, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The cephalothorax has two eyes on top and two to five pairs of lateral eyes along each side. Other organs attached to the cephalothorax include the carapace (upper part of their exoskeleton), chelicerae or mouthparts, pedipalps or claws and the legs.
Most scorpions are either yellow or black, but some may also be red or brown.
Scorpions inhabit every continent on Earth except for Antarctica.
They primarily live in deserts, but one can find them in every terrestrial habitat, including high-elevation mountains, caves, and intertidal zones, that mostly serve as their hiding place. However, they are mostly absent from ecosystems such as the tundra, high-altitude taiga, and mountain tops.
These animals generally have a lifespan of 2-6 years in the wild.
Scorpions prey on insects, particularly beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, termites, and wasps. Other prey includes spiders, solifugids, woodlice, and even small vertebrates like lizards, snakes, and small mammals.
Arthropods like ants, centipedes, spiders, and solifugids may attack scorpions. Major predators include birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and mammals, especially meerkats, which bite off their stingers and are immune to their venom. Other mammals adapted for hunting scorpions include the grasshopper mouse and desert long-eared bat, immune to their poison.
Most scorpions undergo sexual reproduction. Receptive females produce pheromones that wandering males pick up. Males begin courtship by swaying, producing ground vibrations picked up by the female.
The pair then make contact and dance as the male searches for a suitable place to deposit his spermatophore. This process ranges from a few minutes to several hours. Once mating is complete, the duo abruptly separate.
Gestation period varies from one species to the other, between 3 and 18 months. Unlike most arachnids, which hatch from eggs, scorpions undergo live births. The size of a brood ranges vastly from 3 to over 100.
Juvenile instars resemble miniature adults but are still soft and ride on their mother’s back for safety. The mother could sometimes eat her babies out of compulsion when food source is extremely scarce. Once their exoskeleton is completely hardened, the young will hunt prey on their own, soon leaving their mother. Scorpions reach maturity at varying ages depending on the species, ranging from 6 to 83 months.
According to the IUCN, none of the species of scorpion are considered endangered currently.
Scorpion stings are painful but rarely life-threatening, with only about 30 of the estimated 1,500 species producing venom toxic enough to be fatal. Some of the deadliest scorpions include the Deathstalker scorpion, the Indian red scorpion, and the Yellow fat-tailed scorpion.
Yes, all scorpions are poisonous, but the effectiveness of their venom varies from one species to the other. Scorpions maintain the same potency of venom throughout their lives, from babies to adults.
While not being natural swimmers, scorpions are capable of being submerged in water for as long as 48 hours without drowning or hurting themselves. This is because their outer exoskeleton can absorb and store oxygen.
The outer layer of the scorpion’s exoskeleton has a cuticle with a thin section called the “hyaline layer”. This coating reacts to ultraviolet lights like black light causing the scorpion’s body to glow.
They are very good climbers, doing so with small pincers at the tips of their legs.
There is a common misconception that scorpions die in winter. However, the fact is that they hibernate during this time, perhaps to places where they could find warmth.
No, scorpions do not bite. They can only sting.
Scorpions emit a hissing sound when feeling defensive.
They are extremely fast, reaching speeds of 12 mph.
No, as unlike a bee their stinger normally doesn’t get embedded in their victim. In certain cases where that does happen, the stinger simply grows back.