Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scorpions - Glowing Predators

There’s no doubt about it, scorpions are some of the most fearsome looking animals on the planet. They have giant stingers, powerful pinschers and even glow in the dark under U.V. light! 

There are over 1700 species of these sinister looking arachnids, and they live on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Though justifiably feared for their sting, fewer than 40 species have venom strong enough to be fatal to humans.
Photo: Chris Huh
Though usually thought of as desert-dwellers, scorpions can be found in almost every habitat on earth. They prefer areas where soil or rock outcroppings allow them to burrow or hide from the sun but can also live in trees or even on high-altitude mountaintops permanently covered in snow. 

Scorpions are pure carnivores that subsist mainly on insects, spiders and other scorpions. However, some larger species feed on lizards, snakes and small rodents as well. Prey is usually caught with the scorpion’s pincers and then subdued with a venomous sting. One unique feature that allows scorpions to survive when food is scarce is their ability to slow their metabolism at will. By doing this, scorpions can survive on as little as one insect a year if necessary. However, unlike hibernating animals scorpions are still capable of quickly returning their metabolic rates to normal if a prey opportunity presents itself. 

Scorpions are usually quite solitary and only interact with each other to mate (or eat) one another. Unlike most arachnids, scorpions give birth to live young. Litters can range in size from two to one hundred young, called scorplings. When born, scorplings look like perfectly proportioned miniature versions of their parents. They will ride on their mother’s back until they have molted, as up to that time their exoskeletons are soft and unable to protect them from attack. Scorpions molt five to seven times before they reach maturity and depending on species can live anywhere from four to thirty years.

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