Scorpions Spiders Mites and Ticks: Arachnida
Giant Whip Scorpion (mastigoproctus Giganteus): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: Whip scorpions, also known as vinega-roons, mule killers, or grampas, are dark reddish brown or brownish black and measure 1 to 3.2 inches (25 to 80 millimeters) without the long, whiplike tail. The tail is usually carried straight over the back, lacks a stinger, and, at its base, has glands that release strong, defensive acids that smell like vinegar. The body is divided into two regions. The front region is undivided and covered by a carapace. It is attached to the segmented abdomen by a narrow waist. There is one pair of eyes at the front of the body, with three more pairs of eyes on the sides. The thick, spiny claws are used to grasp, tear, and place food into the mouth. There are four pairs of legs. The first pair is long and slender and used like antennae, while the remaining legs are used for walking. Males and females are very similar in appearance, but the claws of the male are slightly longer and more slender, while they are somewhat shorter and stouter in the female.
Geographic range: The giant whip scorpion lives in the southern United States, from southeastern Arizona east to Florida and northern Mexico.
Habitat: Giant whip scorpions prefer dark, humid places and avoid bright sunlight whenever possible. They hide during the day in burrows under logs, rotting wood, rocks, and other natural debris.
Diet: Giant whip scorpions eat many different kinds of crawling invertebrates.
Behavior and reproduction: Whip scorpions hunt actively at night, using their sensitive front legs to detect ground vibrations triggered by the movements of prey. They attack and overpower prey with their mouthparts and claws. Although they are very slow, gentle animals, whip scorpions can move quickly when threatened and will squirt acid that weakens the exoskeletons of other arthropods. They will also use their claws to pinch their enemies.
Courtship involves a mating dance. The male grasps the female's antennalike front legs with his mouthparts and grabs her claws with his; then he guides her over to his sperm packet. He may assist her by placing the sperm packet directly into her reproductive opening with his claws. Afterward, the female finds a sheltered spot and produces a batch of eggs in a clear sac and carries them under her abdomen until they hatch. The pale, nearly transparent, young climb onto the mother's back and remain there until the next molt. Then they climb down to strike out on their own. They molt once a year and take three to four years to reach adulthood.
Giant whip scorpions and people: Whip scorpions are not venomous, but they are capable of spraying a mist of concentrated acetic (uh-SEE-tik) acid, the primary ingredient of vinegar. Larger individuals can inflict a painful pinch. Giant whip scorpions are sometimes kept as pets and are popular animals in insect zoos.
Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ∎
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