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Treating Sick and Injured Emperor Scorpions

Scorpion with babiesReptile and amphibian keepers know how hard it is to find veterinary care for their pets, but those who keep scorpions  face even greater difficulties.  I found one or two vets willing to experiment while working at the Bronx Zoo, but in private practice your options are just about non-existent.  What little we do know has resulted from trial and error, and is constantly evolving.

Pre-dating the dinosaurs, scorpions are a hardy lot, and rarely present us with health problems (at least any that we can identify). Spiders are a bit more prone to illness and injury, and some fine work has been done by private keepers (virtually none by vets, however).  Much of what follows is drawn from conversations with spider keepers, and from my own and others experiments in scorpion health care.  In this regard, Sam Marshall’s chapter on spider first aid in his fine book Tarantulas and Other Arachnids is a must read for scorpion fans. Read More »

World’s Largest Arachnids – Eight-Foot-Long Scorpions of Ancient Seas

While the Emperor Scorpion and the South African Flat Rock Scorpion are, by today’s standards, huge and impressive, they pale in comparison to their extinct relatives.  Imagine, if you will, an 8-foot-long scorpion sporting spiked claws that extended 2 feet from its body!  Well, thanks to newly uncovered fossil evidence, we need not imagine so hard – such fantastic beasts did indeed exist.  Known as Sea Scorpions or Pterygotid Eurypterids, some, such as Acutiramus, were larger than a person!

Natural History

Sea Scorpions are the ancestors of modern-day scorpions, and perhaps of all Arachnids.  Pre-dating the dinosaurs, they emerged approximately 470 million years ago, and roamed the seas (and fresh waters) for over 100 million years.  Read More »

Invertebrate Health – Mites in Scorpion, Millipede and Tarantula Terrariums

Goliath BirdeaterI’m often contacted by Arachnid and millipede owners who are concerned about the tiny white “specks” that they notice crawling about their terrariums and on their pets.  In almost all cases, the little beasts turn out to be relatively harmless Mites.  Mites are actually Arachnids, related to spiders and scorpions, and are unique in the incredible diversity they have attained – over 45,000 species have been described, with many more than that likely remaining to be “discovered”.  Read More »

Research Update – Medically Useful Proteins Found in Scorpion Venom

Scorpion venom has recently undergone an image upgrade…once feared, these little-studied toxins are now yielding valuable medicines. Researchers at China’s Wuhan University have recently (August, 2009) discovered 9 new types of peptides and proteins in the venom of Scorpiops jendeki, a scorpion native to southwestern China.

Current Research

Although considered only mildly toxic, S. jendeki’s venom is quite complex, containing at least 19 different proteins. Scientists believe that these molecules may be useful in synthesizing new drugs. Newly discovered molecules, which may attack cells in novel ways, are always looked upon with great interest by medical researchers working with incurable diseases and drug-resistant microbes.

Role for a Deadly Scorpion

In recent years, even the much-maligned “death stalker” or Israeli yellow scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) is being treated with new respect in the lab – an irradiated version of a protein in its venom shows great promise in the treatment of brain cancer.

Further Reading

You can read more about current research involving scorpion venom and brain cancer at http://www.nano.org.uk/news/april2009/latest1847.htm.


Tailless Whipscorpions – the Weirdest of All Arachnids?

Having long worked with a variety of the world’s most unusual invertebrates, I had imagined myself ready for any and all surprises that might be offered by these fascinating creatures.  Yet the first tailless whipscorpion that I encountered in the wild – a huge specimen that met my gaze inside a hollow tree in Venezuela (where I was searching for yet another bizarre beast, the giant vampire bat) – stopped me in my tracks.

Although relatively harmless, these most unusual Arachnids certainly are formidable – some might say “nightmarish” – in appearance.  If you are looking to add an animal that borders on the unbelievable to your collection, look no further than these fascinating spider relatives.


Tailless whipscorpions are members of the Arachnid order Amblypygi, related to but distinct from the spiders and scorpions.  The incredibly long front legs have evolved into sensory organs, and are slowly moved back and forth, touching this and that, as the animal senses its way about.  It really is quite a sight to behold – one simply has no frame of reference, no matter how many odd creatures have crossed one’s path.

These specialized legs may cover a span of over 1 ½ feet. Some of the larger tropical species also sport 8 inch long “regular legs” and flattened bodies exceeding 2 inches in length – very impressive beasts over-all.  Huge pinchers, kept close to the body until needed to grasp meals, add to the effect.

Tailless Whipscorpions in Captivity

The huge Tanzanian giant tailless whipscorpions (Damon variegatus and D. diadema), are becoming increasingly popular with invertebrate enthusiasts, with captive reproduction now regularly recorded.  I have housed similarly-sized individuals in groups without incident, and was even successful in breeding them in this situation (I removed the youngsters to prevent predation).

In common with all related species, Tanzanian giants are arboreal, and need wide, flat climbing surfaces.  Cork bark slabs are ideal.  They should be provided a varied diet consisting of crickets, waxworms, roaches, locusts and wild caught insects.

All species kept to date require very damp conditions and temperatures of 72-76 F.  Despite their tropical origins, tailless whipscorpions are most often found in caves, wells, hollow trees and other cool micro-habitats.  Most fail to thrive if kept warmer than 80 F.

Although lacking venom glands, tailless whipscorpions can break the skin with their formidable front claws.  For this reason, and because they move very quickly and shed legs easily, these odd creatures should not be handled.

Further Reading

You can learn more about the natural history of African tailless whipscorpions at http://www.arc.agric.za/home.asp?pid=4078.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Luis Fernandez Garcia


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