Emperor Scorpion

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Pandinus imperator
Emperor Scorpion
Class: Arachnida. Order: Scorpiones. Family: Scorpionidae.
Other names: Imperial Scorpion
Physical Description: One of the largest of scorpions in the world,
the emperor scorpion has a dark body ranging from dark
blue/green through brown to black and reaches lengths up to 8”. The large pincers are blackish-red and
have a granular texture. The front part of the body is made up of four sections, each with a pair of legs.
Behind the fourth pair of legs are comb-like structures known as pectines, which are sensory appendages
that brush the substrate as the scorpion walks. The pectines are paired and can are used to distinguish
sexes, as the ventral appendages are longer in males than females. The tail is long and curves back over the
body ending with a large receptacle containing the venom glands and tipped with the sharp, curved stinger.
Sensory hairs cover the pincers and tail, enabling the scorpion to detect prey through air and ground
vibrations.
Diet in the Wild: Insects, arachnids, mice and small lizards
Diet at the Zoo: Crickets
Habitat & Range: The emperor scorpion is found in western Africa and Congo areas, typically in hot and
humid forests. They reside in burrows and prefer to live under leaf litter, forest debris, rocks, stream banks,
and also in termite mounds
Life Span: 5 to 8 years in captivity. Lifespan is likely shorter in the wild.
Perils in the wild: Bats, birds, small mammals, large spiders, centipedes, large lizards and other scorpions
Physical Adaptations:
Eyesight of emperor scorpions is very poor. Their other senses are well developed, with adaptations
like the use of body hairs and pectines to detect their surroundings and prey.
The pectines and body hairs detect the size and location of prey mainly through vibrations in the
ground and in the air. Hungry scorpions move slowly forward, with open claws held out and tail
raised forward over the body.
Adult emperor scorpions use their powerful pincers to kill and manipulate prey, reserving the sting
for larger prey or for use in self-defense. Juveniles, however, depend on their stingers to kill prey.
Scorpions must predigest their food before consumption. Once the prey is subdued, they secrete
digestive enzymes onto the prey, which liquefies the food and prepares it for intake with their
chelicerae.
Behavioral Adaptations:
Nocturnal
Emperor scorpions tend to live communally and are found in large numbers in regions of human
habitation.
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The emperor scorpion shows a degree of social behavior, with burrows often inhabited by 15 or
more individuals
To conserve energy in times of famine, scorpions can slow down their metabolism. Certain
scorpions can survive almost a year without food.
Reproduction and Development:
The emperor scorpion engages in an elaborate courtship dance in which the male holds on to the
female’s pincers and moves around to find a suitable place on the ground to deposit his
spermatophore. The pair engages in many behaviors including but not limited to sexual stinging and
cheliceral "kissing" before depositing the sperm. Once deposited, he maneuvers the female over
the area so she can receive the sperm. Like some other arthropods, female emperor scorpions may
kill and consume the male after mating has occurred.
When pregnant, the body of a female expands to expose the whitish membranes connecting the
segments. The female gives birth to between 9 and 32 live young (about ½ inch in length) after a
seven to nine month gestation period. The young are white when born, but darken with each molt,
reaching sexual maturity at four months.
Emperor scorpions are born defenseless and rely heavily on their mother for food and protection.
Newborns are carried on their mother's back until they are old enough to be on their own. Females
are generally more aggressive after giving birth.
Additional Information:
Males are territorial and will fight to the death. They spend much of their time looking for females
with which to mate
The emperor scorpion fluoresces when exposed to an ultraviolet light, due to fluorescent chemicals
in the cuticle.
The emperor scorpion is threatened by over-collection for the pet trade, and by continuing
destruction of its habitat through deforestation
The venom of emperor scorpions is also studied, as it is abundant in interesting peptides. A
molecule called scorpine has been isolated from the venom of emperor scorpions. The scorpine
molecule seems to have anti-malarial and anti-bacterial qualities.
Scorpions do not need to drink water. They get all the water they need from their food and their
feces consists of a dry powder-like substance.
Even though they are cold-blooded, scorpions can be cooled to below freezing, or endure the
blistering heat of the desert.
Scorpions are ancient arachnids, having been on Earth for over 400 million years.
Conservation Connection: Arachnids
Arachnids are a numerous and diverse group, with over 50,000 species described so far. They include
spiders, scorpions, vinegaroons, whip spiders and their relatives. The arachnids are largely predators, truly
as deadly as they appear, but usually only creatures on their own scale, mainly insects. By filling the
ecological niche of a diminutive predator, arachnids of all types are important in maintaining the balance of
nature by keeping insect populations in check.
Arachnids, like their insect relatives, are Arthropods, the evolutionary decedents of creatures called
trilobites. In fact the first land animals were scorpions which appeared some 400 million years ago. In the
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eons since, the diversity of arachnids has allowed them to flourish in every place on Earth that can support
life, from tropical forests to scorching deserts to our own backyards.
Conservation Status: Not listed by IUCN. The emperor scorpion is collected in Africa for the pet trade.
Consequently, they are listed on the CITES Appendix II list to monitor wild populations
Conservation Efforts: N/A
Glossary: List of definitions of the most important recurrent technical terms used in the text.
cheliceral – Referring to one a pair of the most anterior head appendages on the members of the
subphylum Chelicerata.
pectines – Located behind the fourth pair of legs are comb-like structures which are sensory appendages
that brush the substrate as the scorpion walks.
scorpine - A molecule isolated from the venom of Emperor scorpines. The scorpine molecule seems to have
anti-malarial and anti-bacterial qualities.
Sources:
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens
http://www.pest-control.com/images/Emperor_Scorpion_5325334.jpg
http://www.thebigzoo.com/Animals/Emperor_Scorpion.asp
http://www.arkive.org/emperor-scorpion/pandinus-imperator/#range
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Pandinus_imperator/
http://eol.org/pages/5010047/overview
http://www.zoo.org/page.aspx?pid=1917#.ULTaYYYggdU
http://animals.jrank.org/pages/2276/Spiders-Scorpions-Mites-Ticks-Arachnida-EMPERORSCORPION-Pandinus-imperator-SPECIES-ACCOUNTS.html
http://rosamondgiffordzoo.org/assets/uploads/animals/pdf/EmperorBlackScorpion.pdf
Barnes, R.D. 1974. Invertebrate Zoology
Hickman, C.P. Roberts, L.S. 1994. Biology of Animals
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