Scorpions are fearsome-looking soil animals with a pair of large claws at the front end and a sting in the tail at the back. Native Australian scorpions will give you a painful sting but they are not the deadly ones such as those that live in the Middle East and Mexico. There is always the possibility that some people may react badly to the venom. It is best to avoid touching them with your hands - the use of a long-handled pair of forceps is highly recommended! They are arachnids and related to spiders and mites as they have 4 pairs of legs. Scorpions have a heavily armoured outer skin and have the "banded" appearance of most arthropods. Scorpions have simple eyes on the head.
A scorpion found under a rock in eastern Australia.
Pectines are two comb-like sensory organs on the underside of scorpions. They are sensitive to chemicals and help detect prey and potential mates.
Scorpions are solitary creatures and are predators in the underground world. They hide under logs and stones during the day and become active at night. They can sit at the entrance to their home and apply a lie-in-wait strategy, nabbing any hapless arthropod that wanders by. Or they can emerge at night to actively hunt smaller soil and litter animals such as beetles, spiders, millepedes, and insect larvae. The venom in the sting immobilises or kills the prey so that it is easier for the claws to pick their food to pieces and to suck out the soft tissues of the prey. However, some species use the sting mainly for defence. They can go for long periods between meals (up to 6 months in some Australian species) and then eat up to one-third of their body weight.
A scorpion eyeing off his cricket prey.
They are found all over Australia, even in deserts, and are found under stones and logs where they excavate "scrapes" in the soil to lie in. Some also build burrows (up to 1 m in depth in arid regions) which the scorpion can seal off when it is hot and dry to create a more stable environment. They also make use of a sealed underground cell when they moult and are vulnerable to predation themselves.
Scorpion found under rock in eastern Australia.
A scorpion hole in sand near Pt Augusta, South Australia.
Some scorpions have long gestation periods - up to 18 months between mating and the birth of the live young. This is as long as that of the black rhinoceros! The young scorpions are white when born and are carried around on the mother scorpion's back for several weeks. The young scorpions moult, grow, develop the brown colour and eventually leave the mother to start independent life.
Young white scorpions on mother's back (February, eastern Australia).
Two weeks later - an older young scorpion, now brown.
Scorpions fluoresce if lit with a long-wavelength ultra-violet light, called a “black light”. This feature helps scorpion collectors find them in their natural habitats.
Take them into a dark room, turn on the UV light and the only thing visible is a perfect scorpion glowing eerily green. Spooky!
Scorpions would look very cool at a dance!
OUCH! TURN THAT ANIMATION OFF IT HURTS MY EYES...(PRESS THE ESCAPE KEY ON YOUR KEYBOARD).
A scorpion seeking shelter - you can clearly see the four pair of legs in the second picture.