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The scorpion

3 October 2013

 

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name : Arachnida

Size : Between 9 mm and 210 mm

Legs : 8 Jointed legs

Litter size : From 3 to more than 100 young

Deadliest scorpion : Palestine yellow scorpion

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The scorpions, false scorpions, whip scorpions, spiders, sun spiders, harvestmen, mites and ticks are all members of the large animal Class Arachnida with more than 100 000 species of invertebrate with eight jointed legs as opposed to the insects (Class Insecta) that have six jointed legs. In some species other appendages can be so large that they resemble an extra pair of legs. The name of the Class Arachnida is derived from the Greek word aráchnÄ“ which means spider. 

The scorpions are the oldest arachnids for which fossils are known and originally lived in water. All the scorpions have a body that consists of three parts containing seven segments and a tail of five segments that ends in a sting. They also have pincers which may be used to grasp and subdue prey. Most scorpions are nocturnal and only become active after sunset. Their bodies react to ultraviolet light which is reflected by the hard external skeleton and scorpions can be found easily with a hand-held ultraviolet light unit. The living scorpions are predatory animals that range in size from 9 mm to 210 mm and are found on all the continents except Antarctica. Only some 25 of the known 1752 described species are so venomous that they are deadly to humans although all the living scorpions possess venom.

The name scorpion is believed to have a Middle-English origin which was coined around 1 000 years ago. It is based on the Old French name skorpiδ or the Italian scorpione, both of which were derived from the Latin name scorpius which in turn has its roots in the Greek name skorpius.

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Although most of the living scorpions are terrestrial, some of the oldest fossil scorpions lived in water. The biggest fossil scorpion known Jaekelopterus rhenaniae was recently found in marine deposits near Pr?m in Germany that are 390 million years old. It lived some 460 to 255 million years ago and was almost 2.5 m long. The first scorpions had gills instead of the current book lungs because they lived in water.

Scorpions occur in a wide range of habitats ranging from deserts to forests, land and water. Most types of scorpion reproduce sexually and have male and female individuals with the brood emerging one by one after fertilisation of the eggs following an intricate mating dance. Individuals find each other by using a mix of pheromones and vibrations. Nevertheless, some scorpions reproduce through parthenogenesis which is the process in which an unfertilised egg develops into a living embryo following the female’s final moult. All the young are born alive (viviparous) and scorpions do not develop externally from eggs (oviparous). The litter size varies from three to more than 100 young. The hard, outer skeleton moults five to seven times in succession until reaching maturity. The lifespan of a scorpion is variable and may range from four to 25 years... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References:

Anon. 2011. The deadliest scorpions species. http://www.worldmustbcrazy.com/2011/01/deadliest-scorpions-species.html

Anon 2012. Scorpion. http://www.khandro.net/animal_scorpion.htm

Anon 2012. 5 Most poisonous scorpions of the world. http://www.blindloop.com/index.php/2012/01/5-most-poisonous-scorpions-of-the-world/

Anon 2012. Arachnid. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arachnid

Anon 2012. Scorpion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpion

Larsen, N 2012. Scorpion stings and venoms. Cape Town: Biodiversity Explorer, Iziko Museums. http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/arachnids/scorpions/stings_and_venoms.htm

Leeming, J 2003. Scorpions of southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik.

Royal Society of Biology Letters online 2007. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-11/yu-3sf112107.php

article by: Prof J du P Bothma

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