Scorpions (Scorpiones order) are predatory arachnids that are closely related to spiders, mites and ticks. There are over 1700 species of scorpions in the world and they occur on every continent except Antarctica. Though justifiably feared for their sting, fewer than 40 species have venom strong enough to be fatal to humans.
Scorpions have a crab-like appearance with a set of pincers up front for grasping prey and four pairs of legs. The most easily identifying feature of the scorpion is its segmented tail, called a metasoma, which contains its venom glands and is tipped with a stinging barb. Most scorpions are a little over two inches in length, through the largest species can grow up to nine inches long.
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 also 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.
Scorpions glow under ultraviolet light. Use of a U.V. flashlight is recommended for spotting dangerous scorpions at night.
Scorpions can survive very harsh environments. Even being kept in a freezer overnight will not kill them.