scorpion facts

14 Astonishing Scorpion Facts About These Arachnids

Scorpions are famously known for their stingers and potent venom. As one of the desert's most fearsome creatures, scorpions have long captured the imagination of humans and played prominent roles in myths and legends.

One of the most fascinating facts about scorpions is their remarkable ability to glow under ultraviolet light. When exposed to specific wavelengths, their exoskeletons emit a mesmerizing blue-green glow.

Did you also know that scorpions are not insects? Since they have eight legs, like spiders, scorpions are arachnids. Additionally, scorpions are one of the oldest terrestrial arthropods, with a lineage that dates back over 400 million years. 

With this guide into the world of scorpions, we hope to inspire an appreciation for these beautiful creatures. Let's explore this list of scorpion facts to gain insight into these arachnids and their remarkable ability to thrive in various environments.  

Related: Check out these spider facts about their common arachnid relative!

14 Astonishing Scorpion Facts

scorpion's close up view
Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash

1. Scorpions once shared the Earth with dinosaurs.

Did you know that scorpions might be the oldest land animals today? Experts dug up the oldest scorpion fossils in Scotland, which date back over 430 million years ago to the Silurian period5. These early scorpions likely lived in shallow seas and evolved book lungs (like horseshoe crabs) to help them breathe on land. 

Furthermore, these ancient scorpions are considerably giant. The Palaeophonus nuncius, for instance, can grow as long as 70 cm, far bigger than their modern scorpions. These prehistoric scorpions used gills instead of lungs and hunted their prey in the water with deadly precision. 

2. Scorpions can feel vibrations in the ground.

scorpion crawling on the ground
Photo by Alexey Demidov on Unsplash

Another interesting scorpion fact is that scorpions can sense vibrations in the Earth like humans can pick up the bass on songs. Specialized sensory organs called pectins help these arachnids feel rumblings in the Earth. Moreover, these comb-like structures house thousands of sensitive hair-like sensors known as peg sensilla3.

Using the signals, they can pinpoint the location of prey, dodge predators, and even find suitable partners during mating season. For example, male scorpions can detect a female's pheromones through their pectines, helping them locate and court their mates4.

3. Scorpions change color to blend into their surroundings.

Scorpions can change color and blend into their surroundings. Desert-dwelling species have sandy hues, while their forest-dwelling cousins show earthy browns and greens. 

Moreover, scorpion coloration isn't a random genetic quirk; it results from evolutionary adaptation. By matching their environment, these stealthy creatures gain a significant advantage in hunting and evading danger. 

4. Scorpions glow in ultraviolet light.

scorpion on rock
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Scorpions also glow under ultraviolet (UV) light. This otherworldly luminescence results from a substance in their exoskeleton called beta-carboline. When exposed to UV rays, they emit a bright blue-green light. Baby scorpions and recently molted ones exhibit this striking fluorescent trait. 

The exact purpose of scorpion bioluminescence remains debated among experts. Some researchers suggest that the glow may protect them from the harmful UV radiation in sunlight. Field observations have also led scientists to believe that fluorescence could play a part in hunting, luring, or disorienting prey. Finally, the glow might also be a signal or identifier among scorpions. 

5. Scorpions are carnivores.

Scorpions primarily feed on beetles, crickets, ants, termites, and other scorpions. They rely on their keen sensory abilities and stealthy hunting tactics. Additionally, scorpions play a vital role as effective hunters in their ecosystems. 

They often lie in wait to ambush and kill prey. Once their target approaches, they swiftly spring into action, using their powerful pincers to seize and immobilize their unfortunate victim.

Besides insects, scorpions can also take down and eat bigger prey. For example, certain scorpions hunt small animals like lizards, snakes, mice, and burrowing spiders. Using their stingers, they inject a potent scorpion venom that can immobilize small animals in seconds.

You're halfway there. Keep reading to discover why scorpions have survived for hundreds of millions of years!

6. Scorpions live longer than most arachnids.

Most people mistook scorpions for insects. However, they are spiders. Scorpions live longer compared to their fellow arthropods. Most scorpions live in the wild for two to ten years, while captive ones can live for 25 years. 

Their unique feeding habits and innovative energy management contribute to their long lives. Their low metabolic rate enables them to conserve energy and survive despite inconsistent meals. 

Some species can even go without food for six to 12 months. Scientists have also frozen scorpions overnight to see whether they survive harsh conditions. They put them in the sun and watched them thaw and walk away.

7. Scorpions perform a special mating dance.

scorpion on sand
Photo by Patrizia08 on Pixabay

During mating season, male scorpions first track down a suitable female by following the enticing chemical cues she leaves behind. Upon finding a prospective partner, the male works to pique her interest by performing various actions, such as waving his pincers or tail.

Known as the promenade à deux (or dance for two), the ritual begins when the male takes hold of the female's pincers and guides her through an intricate choreography. Together, they perform mesmerizing movements, swaying back and forth or side to side in perfect unison. 

This enthralling spectacle may last anywhere from mere minutes to several hours. Throughout the dance, the male diligently searches for the ideal surface to deposit his spermatophore, a sperm-filled capsule vital to their reproductive process. 

Once he finds the perfect spot, he leads the female to the spermatophore, which she carefully retrieves using her genital opening. This crucial moment in their dance signals the fertilization of her eggs.

8. Scorpions give birth to live young.

Next, in our list of scorpion facts, we explore reproduction. Defying the norm for arachnids, female scorpions give birth to live young rather than laying external eggs. As the baby scorpions, or couplings, emerge from their mother's body, they instinctively climb onto her back, seeking protection in their first moments. 

Then, the mother scorpion curls around her fragile offspring. Armed with her venomous stinger, she fends off any potential threats. However, the mother's care extends beyond mere physical protection. As the couplings cannot hunt for food, she nourishes them through an intriguing process called trophallaxis, where she regurgitates pre-digested food for her young to consume. 

As the couplings grow, they eventually undergo their first molt, which gives them a harder exoskeleton. After the maternal care phase, the young scorpions alight from their mother's back and venture into their natural habitat. Then, they can develop into full-grown adult scorpions. 

9. Scorpions can cut off their limbs and regrow them over time.

Like lizards and crayfish, scorpions can self-amputate to escape predators1. Their legs and pedipalps often fall victim to autotomy, as these appendages are more likely to be trapped by a foe. Fracture planes, the scorpion's built-in weak spots in their exoskeleton, enable a clean break when needed.

However, losing a limb doesn't spell doom for these resilient arachnids. Instead, they regenerate their lost limbs. During molting, scorpions shed their exoskeletons to accommodate changes in their body. This is also when they grow replacement limbs. 

When it grows out, the new limb might appear smaller and less developed than the original. Still, it should regain its full size and functionality after a few molts. Since regenerating lost limbs requires vast energy, scorpions may eat more food than usual during this period.

10. Scorpions are edible.

black scorpion
Photo by 41330 on Pixabay

If you travel to some regions of the world, you might be surprised to know they eat scorpions as a delicacy. Once these creatures die, you can eat them safely because their venom becomes harmless and inert upon death. Adventurous eaters should enjoy these animals' unique flavor and texture without the risk of being stung.

In some communities, scorpions are a valuable source of protein. Adults and children in remote areas hunt them. Today, scorpions have started to pop up in crowded city food scenes. Urbanites can easily find these exotic arachnids at street food stalls and local markets; they are usually deep-fried, grilled, skewered, and candied. 

11. Scorpion venom is a mix of toxins.

All known species of scorpion possess venom. However, only 25 of the roughly 1,500 species identified have venom potent enough to kill humans.

Their venom comprises neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and hemotoxins. They can cause severe neurological damage, tissue destruction, and heart dysfunction. As a result, these venomous species are potentially fatal to humans. 

Among the deadliest scorpion species are the Indian Red Scorpion, the Arabian Fat-tailed Scorpion, and the Deathstalker of North Africa and the Middle East. If these scorpions sting you, get medical help immediately to prevent death.

12. While dangerous, scorpions can also heal.

brown scorpion on rock
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Scorpion venom has two sides: it can harm and heal. For example, researchers have found that some of its components can selectively target cancer cells, offering promising leads for developing innovative cancer therapies6

Moreover, the venom has demonstrated antimicrobial properties, opening avenues for new antibiotic discoveries. Some ingredients of scorpion venom can suppress the immune system. People with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis might benefit from this venom effect. 

13. Scorpions are under threat of extinction.

While species like the Giant Hairy Scorpion remain safe, other species face threats from various factors. One of these threats is the loss of their natural habitats. Continued deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urban sprawl dramatically shrink the scorpion habitat. 

Moreover, the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture poses a significant threat; exposure to these chemicals can lead to dwindling scorpion populations2. Various groups and governments have started protection efforts to resolve the scorpions' plight. 

For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) monitors the trade of several scorpion species. Restrictions are now in place against scorpion collection for the pet trade, a common practice that can result in overharvesting. 

Furthermore, some countries enforce national laws that shield specific scorpion species from collection and exchange. 

14. How to protect yourself from scorpions

scorpion on white sand
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Most scorpion stings cause only mild to moderate symptoms. However, a few species produce venom potent enough to trigger severe reactions and, in rare cases, even death. For example, the sting of the Arizona Bark Scorpion, commonly found in the southwestern United States, can cause intense pain, difficulty breathing, and muscle convulsions. 

The first tip in scorpion safety is identifying the species responsible for the sting. Knowing the species helps prevent hazardous encounters and explains the proper first-aid measures once stung.

Since scorpions are nocturnal animals, exercise caution when entering areas known for scorpion presence at night. Additionally, wear protective footwear and gloves, maintain a clean and clutter-free living space, and seal possible entryways in your home. 

If you get stung, stay calm, promptly call for medical services, and perform first aid. Clean the wound, apply ice, and take over-the-counter pain relievers. 

What are your favorite scorpion facts? Remember to share it with your friends!

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with S.

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1

Mattoni, C. I., García-Hernández, S., Botero-Trujillo, R., Ochoa, J. A., Ojanguren-Affilastro, A. A., Pinto-da-Rocha, R., & Prendini, L. (2015). Scorpion sheds ‘tail’ to escape: consequences and implications of autotomy in scorpions (Buthidae: Ananteris). PLoS ONE, 10(1), e0116639.

2

Lourenço, W. R., & Cloudsley-Thompson, J. L. (2012). Scorpions, scorpionism, life history strategies and parthenogenesis. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, 18(1), 4-18.

3

Foelix, R. F., & Müller-Vorholt, G. (1983). The fine structure of scorpion sensory organs. II. Pecten sensilla. Bulletin of the British Arachnological Society, 6(1), 10-17.

4

Foelix, R. F., & Müller-Vorholt, G. (1983). The fine structure of scorpion sensory organs. II. Pecten sensilla. Bulletin of the British Arachnological Society, 6(1), 10-17.

5

Waddington, J., Dunlop, J. A., & Selden, P. A. (2015). A new mid-Silurian aquatic scorpion-one step closer to land? Biology Letters, 11(2), 20140815.

6

Gomes, A., Bhattacharjee, P., Mishra, R., Biswas, A. K., Dasgupta, S. C., Giri, B., & Debnath, A. (2010). Anticancer potential of animal venoms and toxins. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 48(2), 93-103.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Chinny Verana, BSc.

Photo by Sina Katirachi on Unsplash
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