Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Whip Scorpion

Image via Wikipedia
We've seen the elegant Scorpion with their often rather dainty pincers, now let's see their relatives, the chunky Whip Scorpions with their own brutal, barbarous claws.

Whip Scorpions, also known oddly as Vinegaroons, are indeed arachnids with thick, hefty bodies. Most of them are 3 cm (1.2 in) long or a bit under, but the biggest ones can reach 8.5 cm (3.3 in). They have their 8 legs but, just like our very own Camel Spider, they only use 6 of them to walk. The first pair are longer and thinner than the rest and used as antennae. Weird how they looked at those Camel Spiders and thought "good idea", yet the most famous arachnids - spiders and scorpions - haven't felt the need.

Image by Dolor Ipsum via Flickr
They get their name from looking a bit like a scorpion. Fair enough. But instead of a sting they have a long, thin tail. It can look a bit like a whip, but I don't think it's used as one. Why bother when you can just squirt a load of acid from your hind-quarters? Yeah, acid! It smells like vinegar, which is where "Vinegaroon" comes from. It doesn't seem to pose any danger to humans but I suspect it's pretty good against all sorts of predators. Good thing, too, since Whip Scorpions have no venom glands. Without painful stings to protect its plump body, it had to come up with something else.

But check out those claws! Whip Scorpion palps have become powerful, crushing claws. Without venom or indeed webs, they've had to rely on brute strength to overcome their prey. Those things are incredibly impressive! It looks like they are flexing their biceps. Biceps tend to be less spiky though.

With these they can grapple with small insect and millipede prey, though the bigger ones can also catch small vertebrates. Unfortunately, I've had to grow to accept that there are quite a few creatures with exoskeletons and no backbone that eat things that DO have a backbone. I don't like it, but there it is.

Whatever the prey, the Whip Scorpion simply grabs it and crushes and mushes it in those formidable pincers. Ouch! It then takes it to a dark, humid burrow to feast in peace.


Like the Scorpion, the Whip Scorpion cares for her eggs and carries her young on her back. There will be about 35 of them at most. The mother dies after her children go through their first moult and fly the nest. I think she should consider enjoying her retirement, but that might just be my backbone talking.

Young Whip Scorpions take about 3 years to reach adulthood, after which they have about 4 more years of life left in them. Face it, when it comes to having children, looking after them and simply taking aaaaaages to become an adult, you have a lot more in common with a Whip Scorpion than you do a pretty butterfly or whatever. That too is something we will all have to accept.

17 comments:

texwisgirl said...

those long antennae legs are pretty amazing, but even Popeye would be jealous of those biceps!

Comment1 said...

I like those legs, too. They're so long and thin, so different from all the other legs. As for those biceps, they're just big and scary!

Crunchy said...

I wonder what's the point of the whiptail part. Is it sensory, too? At the end of the video it almost looked like it was leaving the thing out to keep an eye outside its home. On the other hand, it was also really slow and may have just left its butt hanging out.

Either way, they should be Giant Pinchbugs. Much more descriptive.

Comment1 said...

I couldn't find out about that whiptail. I agree that it seems reasonable for it to be sensory. I suppose animals that want to eat it would come from behind and perhaps it helps aim the squirt of acid.

As for Giant Pinchbug, I'm afraid I can't join you in that because I'm British and we don't use the word "bug" so much.

Perhaps you could say that and we'll call them Giant Pinchbastards? I think that really suits them!

Crunchy said...

Hey, "bug" is a technical term! :D

Pinchbastards works, but it's really more of a value judgment, you know? I'm sure some of them are really quite nice, like the big burly biker guys who hold doors for ladies. Maybe the Pinchbastard would /prefer/ a more gentle and elegant method of feeding, or even to be herbivorous, but sadly that is not his lot in life.

Comment1 said...

Hmmm... you might be right. There are people who keep these guys as pets so I assume they've gotten to know them very well. Perhaps we should ask them?

Right now I reckon they're big enough to take it, although I might not call them Pinchbastard to their face...

Moro Rogers said...

There is a town in Texas called Vinegaroon. I think I will avoid it. (Supposedly America is crawling with these little guys but I haven't had the good fortune to see one yet.)

Comment1 said...

Gosh, Vinegaroon City. It certainly sounds like something to be wary of!

Good luck in spotting one. I hope you creep up on it rather than it creep up on you.

Michael said...

These camel spiders certainly looks like scorpions and as dangerous as the scorpions.

BenPN1000 said...

I've kept a vinagaroon as a pet,their totally harmless and quite docile.They can be handled gently and it never try'd to pinch me but will use their spray which smells nasty.All in all nice creatures and quite an active and interesting pet.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

That's really cool! Nice that they're so friendly. Never judge a book by its pincer!

Lear's Fool said...

In case you're curious, they're quite good at handling one of the more frequent winners of 'Monster Bug Wars', the centipedes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47AO07aGNGQ

'wrapping them up in a ball and nomming them' is quite the clever solution, isn't it?

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Erk... yeah, she made a nice little parcel out it. Looks painful enough without all the biting and eating!

Jimmy Barnes said...

Do they grow their whips back if broken off?

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Probably! Arachnids usually get replace lost legs when they moult

Julien Neter said...

I believe some cousins - other Amblypygids - can reach two feet. Oh, and you might make a detailed article about the horrendous sexual life of bed bugs. Like, the fact that only 30% of bed bug mating is male/female.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Two feet! Wow! That'll be those crazy sensory legs. I've done a bit about Bedbugs but I didn't know they were quite so inefficient at mating!

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