Scorpion biology

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Scorpions are nocturnal and occur on all continents except for Antarctica, being most diverse in arid subtropical habitats. Scorpions, and spiders, have the slowest metabolic rate of all the arthropods and thus spend most of their time in a retreat waiting to ambush passing prey. Scorpions can endure extreme temperatures ranging from 11.9 C below freezing to a blistering 47 C. Scorpions collected for research are known to survive being placed in a deepfreezer for a few days. Desert scorpions rarely drink and usually obtain their moisture requirements from their prey and conserve water by excreting nearly insoluble nitrogenous waste products and extremely dry faeces.

Scorpions are adapted for various habitats that fall into 5 categories:

  • Psammophilous scorpions are adapted to life on soft sand and have long macro setae (sand comb) that enlarge the surface area of the feet for walking on sand. The genera in this category are Opistophthalmus, Uroplectes and Parabuthus.
  • Lithophilous scorpions occur in rock crevices and cracks and are dorsolaterally flattened for this purpose, especially in the genus Hadogenes. The feet have claws adapted to grip and climb rock surfaces. Some species of Opistophthalmus occurring in shallow scrapes under rock are flattened to a lesser extent.  Genera occupying this habitat are Hadogenes, Opisthacanthus, Opistophthalmus and Uroplectes.  There is a large degree of speciation in this group where different species can be found occurring in close proximity. This is a result of isolation where sandy areas separate rock outcrops or mountain ranges. 
  • Pelophilous scorpions burrow in hard soils using their enlarged chelicerae or large crablike chelae for digging and have short, robust legs. The genera Cheloctonus, Karasbergia, Lisposoma and Opistophthalmus fall into this category.
  • Arboreal scorpions shelter in holes in trees, under bark and often actively hunt on tree bark or on vegetation. There tends to be less speciation due to their greater dispersal abilities, with climatic conditions being the limiting factor. Opisthacanthus and Uroplectes are common forest genera in this category.
  • Lapidocolous scorpions wander about at night and shelter under available stones or any other suitable cover by day. The genera Hottentotta, Pseudolychas and Uroplectes fall into this group.

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Text by Norman Larsen .

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