Friday 7 October 2011

Short-tailed Whip Scorpion

Image: Wikipedia
Oh dear. Scorpion. Whip Scorpion. Short-tailed Whip Scorpion. Once again the paucity of imagination when coming up with names for arachnids is shockingly evinced.

At least we're talking about really tiny ones now, since most of them are less than 5 millimetres (0.2 inches) in length. They're not well studied but there are at least 230 species of these little monsters across the world, probably quite a lot more.

They are all in the order Schizomida. They're Schizomids. Now, this I like! It rolls off the tongue in a very pleasing way and one is so seldom allowed to have honest, good natured fun when speaking of anything schizo.

Schizo actually means 'split' (like schism), and mid simply means middle. This is a reference to Schizomids having their thorax split into two plates, while a third, big one covers the head. This is a very important characteristic; it's one of the main features that make them a Schizomid. Without it they'd be, what... mids?

Image: [wj] via Flickr
The fun doesn't stop there, though. There's a whole genus of these critters called Draculoides. And they got their name from a species that was almost absurdly named Draculoides bramstokeri.

That's Dracula AND Bram Stoker. Not only the book, but the guy who wrote it! Someone was clearly very adamant about something when they came up with this name. Or had just read the book. Or watched the film.

So, why this name? Well, the pedipalps of these fellows have become fangs at the end of long appendages that are held curled up in front of the head. These are used to grab onto small arthropod prey, while the mouthparts mangle them up and suck out the juices. Traditional, arachnid fare! And a little more butchery than our favourite undead nobleman, if we're being honest.

Still, perhaps they will one day find some creature who sits in a chair for a remarkable amount of each day and they'll name it after me. Till then I probably shouldn't say too much.

Schizomods have no eyes and only some of them retain rudimentary eyespots to tell light from dark. Instead, their first pair of legs are extra long and used to sense the area ahead of them. They walk on the remaining 6 legs.

Image source
They live in damp, dark places under rocks and logs. Some live in caves and some even among ants or termites. Quite appropriate that, since they look rather like ants and even more like termites.

I wonder if they stride around with confidence as the ants and termites wander about them, little knowing that what appears to be one of their own is in reality something different. Something from another place.

Something who's fangs will soon cast a deadly shadow as their latest victim is crushed, their life slowly drained away leaving nothing but a lifeless husk; a face grimacing in fear and frozen in time.

All whilst wearing a teeny, tiny cape.


TexWisGirl said...

you're dreaming bit now - to have something named after you that sits in a chair for a good amount of the day. ha! :)

TexWisGirl said...

oops. meant dreaming BIG!

Joseph JG said...

Oh, you gotta have a dream! If you have a dream you may as well dream big and exciting!

Crunchy said...

Ugh. Looks like an earwig!

Joseph JG said...

Hey, you're kinda right! This one puts all of its weaponry on the front end, though.