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Arachnid saturday #3
Giant desert hairy scorpion
The desert scorpion is found exclusively in North America. The scorpion greatly prefers life in deserts, being found in southwestern deserts like the Sonora and Mojave in Mexico. In America, the scorpion can be located in Arizona, the Colorado desert, southern California, and even Nevada and Utah to the extreme southwest.
The biology of this scorpion has specially adapted it to live in the hot deserts of the Americas. The scorpions find a home within abandoned burrows, crevices, and small caves. The scorpions dig burrows up to 2.5 meters (8’ 2”) deep. They have this choice of a home to ensure that the arachnid stays cool in the unforgiving deserts. Some scorpions have found a home in suburban environments in Arizona and California. When living in the suburban area, they stalk irrigated lawns and ornamental plants so that an unfortunate beetle drawn to them falls prey to the jaws of the scorpion. They are unlikely to be found in the highlands, only being found at an elevation of around 900-1800 feet. They hunt at night to avoid the harsh sun that roasts their body. The scorpion is often welcoming to house guests, being found living alongside several other scorpions of other species.
This scorpion is the largest scorpion in North America, ascertaining a length of up to 5.5 in (14cm or 140 mm) and weighing up to 7 grams (typically 4-7). The cephalothorax of the arthropod is black in coloration, with each of the several bands being found along the cephalothorax being lined in a pale yellow color. They appear pale on the underside and the legs are a pale yellow color. Abundant erect hairs line the eight large legs of the scorpion as well as the abdomen and pedipalps (mouth appendages). These brown hairs are what give the scorpion its common name, not to mention its size. The brown hairs appear to give these sections of the body a darker olive green color.
Like many arachnids across the world, the mating of the giant scorpion is a several step process. The males are typically the ones to engage the sexual congress between the two. Despite this, there are recorded instances of the female engaging the process of scorpion coitus. They begin typically at night, the same time they go to prowl for food. The male shows his presence by doing jerking motions back and forth, throwing his body. After that, he grabs the female, immediately proceeding to club her with the stinger, stinging her up to 14 times, referred to as “sexual stings”. After the stings have been delivered, the male grabs her again, now by the pedipalps. With her in his grasp, they engage in a small, dance, both engaging in swaying movements. This dance continues until they find a suitable place to place the male’s spermatophore (see deathstalker scorpion). The male often clubs the female several more times after mating is complete before sending her back into the wild. However, the female returns the favor by tracking down her mate and consuming him.
LIFE CYCLE AND PREDATORS/PREY:
The female bears live young and carried the broods on her back for a period of 10-15 days. The broods do not feed during this period they remain on their mother’s back. They do not begin to live independently until they shed for the first time. The young scatter and will shed their skin many more times before reaching peak maturity. Since they are nocturnal, they often find themselves being consumed by owls and bats in the night. As for what they eat, they hunt insects, arachnids, lizards, and sometimes snakes. They use their very nonpotent venom to subdue their prey so they can consume them
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders (book)
Hadrurus arizonensis (right) sparring with a similarly sized scorpion, Heterometrus spinifer (left)