Although they look like small lobsters or are sometimes mistaken as insects, scorpions are arachnids and closely related to spiders. They have eight legs, pinchers, and a curved tail. You can find them worldwide, except for Antarctica. Despite being known for their venomous stingers, these animals are also kept as pets and have fascinating habits. In this article, I’ve gathered some interesting facts I believe you will enjoy.
Let’s learn more about these amazing animals found worldwide!
19 Facts About Scorpions
From the extent of their venom toxicity to how they give birth, check out these 19 facts you may not have known about scorpions.
1. They Prefer Habitats with Hiding Places
Although scorpions live on every continent except Antarctica, you typically find them in deserts and dry grassland. However, you can also find some species in the humid conditions of tropical rainforests. They prefer habitats with plenty of areas to hide, such as rocks, logs, boards, or clutter.
Some species, like the Bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus), can also rest on vertical surfaces of walls, bushes, or trees. The bark scorpion is commonly found in the Grand Canyon by the stream and where there is plenty of vegetation, crevices, rocks, and other places to hide.
2. They Can Live in Extreme Conditions
Scorpions can survive extreme hot and cold climates, making them adaptable to the harsh conditions of deserts. These animals can live on only the moisture they get from their food. They also require a tenth of oxygen compared to other animals.
During the day, they often hide or burrow under sand or soil to cope with the sun’s heat. Extreme cold also doesn’t phase them. Researchers have frozen some scorpion species and watched them thaw out in the sun the next day, alive and well.
3. They Can Also Survive Food Scarcity
The scorpion’s survival skills in tough environments are very remarkable. During periods of food scarcity, they can slow down their metabolism to the point they only need the energy of eating one insect per year to survive.
4. Their Venom is Diverse
All scorpions have venom that is toxic enough to paralyze and kill small creatures. Their venom can produce dozens of toxins, such as cardiotoxins, neurotoxins, hemolytic, and nephrotoxins. Even young scorpions can sting with the same venom level as adults.
Interestingly, these animals can also control how much venom they release with each sting, meaning not all stings will be fatal. Each species has venom that impacts different animals, especially when they specialize in eating only one particular prey. In addition to using their venom to subdue or kill prey, they also use it to protect themselves from various predators, including birds, centipedes, lizards, and small mammals.
5. Some Species Can Kill Humans
About 30 to 40 species have a sting that can kill humans. The Deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus), Indian Red Scorpion (Hottentotta tamulus), and Arabian Fat-Tailed scorpion (Androctonus crassicauda) are known as the deadliest species.
The Spitting Thicktail Black Scorpion (Parabuthus transvaalicus) found in South Africa has a venom potency similar to cyanide. Luckily, scorpions will only attack if they feel threatened. Sometimes they also do a “warning” sting that isn’t as toxic or fatal.
In North America, the most venomous species is the Bark Scorpion. People who have been stung describe the pain as a severe electric jolt.
6. Their Venom May Save Lives
Scientists have been doing studies using elements found in scorpion venom for medical purposes. For example, the chlorotoxin in the Deathstalker’s venom has inspired methods to diagnose and treat certain cancers.
The lesser Asian scorpion (Mesobuthus eupeus) also has venom with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It could be useful for treating bacteria, fungi, malaria parasites, and arthritis.
7. They Are Fast Predators
The poisonous tip of the scorpion’s tail is called a telson. These animals will use their pincers to grab prey and whip their telson forward to sting. Some species can swing their telson at 50 inches per second.
Scorpions use different techniques to capture prey. Some species ambush, while others hunt or set pitfall traps.
8. They Liquidize Their Prey
Scorpions generally eat insects and some feed on small rodents, lizards, and spiders. Each species usually has the special venom needed to work on their preferred prey. Since scorpions have tiny mouths, they have to eat in liquid form. To do this, they have enzymes to liquidize and digest prey externally before sucking them into their mouths.
9. They Can Submerge Under Water
Sometimes scorpions hunt for prey by the water. Similar to horseshoe crabs, scorpions have book lungs that allow them to stay submerged underwater. They can remain like this for up to 48 hours and survive.
Having said this, they cannot breathe underwater. They simply hold their breath. They are also not very good swimmers and tend to walk at the bottom of ponds.
10. They Can Glow Blue
When you put a scorpion under ultraviolet light (UV) they will glow blue. This occurs because they have fluorescent chemicals in a layer of their exoskeleton. While scientists aren’t sure why they glow, some theories include that it helps them:
- Protect from sunlight
- Locate each other
11. They are 2,100 Times Older Than Humans
Although today’s scorpions aren’t the best at swimming, ancient scorpions were aquatic. As a species, scorpions have existed since before and during the dinosaur ages. Making them potentially the oldest land animals alive today. There are fossils from 420 million years ago during the Silurian Period suggesting they were the first marine animals to migrate to dry land.
12. They’ve Looked the Same for Millennia
Scientists have found prehistoric fossils of scorpions in Scotland. These animals’ appearances still look the same.
However, they were much bigger back then. Today’s scorpions are half the size of the ancient ones that measured over 3 feet long based on fossils.
13. The Largest Scorpion is From Asia
The largest scorpion still alive today is the Giant Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus swammerdami) from Asia. They can grow up to 9 inches in length and weigh 2 ounces. You can find these species in the tropical rainforests of Sri Lanka and India.
14. They Molt to Grow
As they grow, scorpions will molt by crackling and opening up their outer skin. Scorpions then maneuver out of their old skin and leave it behind.
After molting, their exoskeleton is delicate and soft, taking a few days to harden up. Scorpions will typically molt 5 or 6 times during their life cycle until they reach maturity.
15. They Have a Courtship Ritual
During mating, scorpions perform a ritual similar to a dance known as promenade à deux (walk for two in French). While each species has different specifics to the dance, they often face each other, hold pinchers and rotate back and forth together. They also sometimes bump their tails without stinging.
After the dance, males will deposit their spermatophore, which is a protein capsule for reproduction. They place this on the ground for the female and leave.
16. They Don’t Lay Eggs
Scorpions don’t lay eggs. Instead, they are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Some species develop their young in a membrane that provides nourishment. Babies are typically born 2 to 18 months after mating and look like small adult scorpions with softer, lighter bodies.
17. Females Take Care of Their Young
Baby scorpions will climb onto their mother’s backs after birth. The mother’s back has a nutritious yolk sac that babies absorb for food. Female scorpions will also fiercely defend them until they move on.
Although most babies leave after their first molt, a few days after birth, some stay longer. There are instances where babies stay with their mothers for two years, especially since the mother will catch and kill prey to feed the babies.
18. They Are Kept as Pets
Despite their venom and lack of cuddliness, scorpions are still kept as pets. They are interesting to observe, clean, and low-maintenance. If you are a beginner scorpion owner, the Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is the most docile and has a mild sting. They can also live up to 8 years.
Other common species kept as pets include the Javanese Jungle Scorpion (Heterometrus javanensis) and Dictator Scorpion (Pandinus pandinus). Make sure to avoid these toxic and often fatal species:
- Androctonus genus, fat-tailed scorpions
- Centruroides genus, bark scorpions
- Vaejovis genus
19. They Can be Cannibals
Scorpions are nocturnal hunters and some species will eat anything they find appetizing, including each other. Females are often more aggressive than males. In captivity, females can sometimes eat the males after mating, having worked up an appetite after dancing.
This is why, in the wild, males will deposit their spermatophores on the ground so they can quickly leave and avoid the risk of being eaten. So make sure to separate your scorpions after mating if you have them as pets!
Interestingly enough, some female scorpions will also eat their own babies when food is scarce. This can seem a little odd since they are also known to protect their young fiercely.