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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Scorpions - Interesting Facts

Scorpions are carnivorous arthropods of the order Scorpiones and belong to the class Arachnida. This class also contains mites, spiders, and ticks. Scorpions are found in many warm regions of the world, besides deserts, but in fact, they can also be found in many other environments, such as Brazilian forests, North Carolina, British Columbia and also the Himalayas.

There are approximately 2,000 scorpion species, however no more than 30 or 40 contain powerful enough venom capable of killing a human being. Scorpions are strictly carnivorous, though their diet can be extremely changeable. Scorpions are active at night and spend their day in shelter. Some species live in shallow scrapes under loose debris, rocks and stones; others, where conditions are more extreme, dig deep burrows. When hungry, they generally emerge at night and wait to ambush their prey. The scorpion’s sting kills or paralyses its prey, according to the type of venom it has. Scorpions are active only when nighttime low temperatures exceed about 77 degrees F. They are inactive and rarely seen during winter months. When food is not enough, the scorpion has an incredible ability to slow its metabolism. This enables some species to use little oxygen and live on as little as a single insect per year.

Scorpions have an interesting courtship ritual known as the “promenade a deaux” that may last various hours. In general, the male grasps the female’s claws and maneuvers her back and forth until a package of sperm he has left on the ground is taken up in her genitalia. The courtship ritual can involve several other behaviors such as juddering and a cheliceral kiss.

Once the female is impregnated, the gestation period may last several months to over a year, depending on the species. The fertilized eggs of the scorpions develop inside the mother and the young are born alive, enveloped in a membrane from which they escape by lacerating it with their stings. Until their first molt (shedding of skin), the young are weak and are carried on the mothers back. Eventually they get off their mother's back to begin an independent life. Scorpions may live for several years.

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