Scorpions are not insects but arachnids, like spiders.
They have been on Earth a long time and are among the first animals to have adapted to land living — around 420 million years ago.
There are over 2,500 described species, with 22 extant (living) families recognized to date.
Scorpions are found on every continent except Antarctica, in habitats ranging from tropical rainforests to grasslands and deserts.
The highest altitude reached by a scorpion is 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) in the Andes.
Most scorpions are nocturnal and solitary, usually staying in the same territory throughout their lives.
Many species dig a shelter underneath stones a few centimeters long. Some may use burrows made by other animals including spiders, reptiles and small mammals.
Scorpions have eight legs, and are easily recognized by a pair of grasping pincers and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back and always ending with a stinger. They exhibit few sexual differences, although males usually are more slender and have longer tails than females.
Scorpions are relatively large among terrestrial arthropods, with an average size of about 6 cm (2.5 inches).
The longest scorpion in the world is the rock scorpion of South Africa – which attain a length of 21 cm (8.3 inches).
Giants among scorpions include the black emperor scorpion an African species found in Guinea, which attains a body length of about 18 cm (7 inches) and a mass of 60 grams (more than 2 ounces).
The smallest is Middle Eastern scorpion Microbuthus pusillu, 6.5 millimeters (0.25 inches).
Scorpions primarily prey on insects and other invertebrates, but some species take vertebrates. When food is scarce, the scorpion has an amazing ability to slow its metabolism to as little as one-third the typical rate for arthropods.
They use their pincers to restrain and kill prey. The venomous sting can be used both for killing prey and for defense.
The sting of a scorpion may be painful or even deadly, depending on the species. Of the 2,500 species of scorpions worldwide, only about 30 have strong enough poison to kill a person.
A scorpion’s venom is a mixture of compounds, including neurotoxins that affect the victim’s nervous system.
Scorpions can easily be seen at night with an ultraviolet light due to a fluorescent material found in their hard outer covering, which gives them a “glow-in-the-dark” appearance.
In high temperatures, scorpions may stilt, or raise their body off the ground, to cool off their underside.
Much like crickets, some scorpions “sing” by rubbing their legs together. However, unlike crickets, it is thought that the song is used as a warning call instead of a call to attract a mate.
Most species give live birth and the female cares for the young as their exoskeletons harden, transporting them on her back. Litter size averages 25, with a range of 1 to more than 100. After freeing itself, the immature scorpion crawls onto the mother’s back, where it remains for a period
ranging from 1 to 50 days. During this time the young scorpions are defenseless and utilize food reserves in their bodies while receiving water transpired through the mother’s cuticle and taken up through their own.
Scorpions are unusual long lived compared to other invertebrates. Most scorpions reach maturity in 1 to 3 years (some species take longer time), and live for 2 to 5 years as adults. This means that scorpions can live from 3 to 8 years.
Scorpions are often kept as pets. They are relatively simple to keep, the main requirements being a secure enclosure such as a glass aquarium with a lockable lid, and the appropriate temperature and humidity for the chosen species, which typically means installing a heating mat and spraying regularly with a little water.
Scorpions are consumed in West Africa, Myanmar and East Asia. Fried scorpion is traditionally eaten in Shandong, China. There, scorpions can be cooked and eaten in a variety of ways, such as roasting, frying, grilling, raw, or alive. In Thailand, scorpions are not eaten as often as other arthropods,
such as grasshoppers, but they are sometimes fried as street food. They are used in Vietnam to make snake wine (scorpion wine).
Scorpions strike terror in many people and have been both hated and admired since ancient times.
Scorpions with their powerful stingers appear in art, folklore, mythology, and commercial brands.
Scorpion motifs are woven into kilim carpets for protection from their sting.
One of the earliest occurrences of the scorpion in culture is its inclusion, as Scorpio, in the 12 signs of the Zodiac by Babylonian astronomers during the Chaldean period. This was then taken up by western astrology – in astronomy the corresponding constellation is named Scorpius.
In ancient Egypt, the goddess Serket, who protected the Pharaoh, was often depicted as a scorpion.
In ancient Greece, a warrior’s shield sometimes carried a scorpion device, as seen in red-figure pottery from the 5th century BC.
In Greek mythology, Artemis or Gaia sent a giant scorpion to kill the hunter Orion, who had said he would kill all the world’s animals. Orion and the scorpion both became constellations – as enemies they were placed on opposite sides of the world, so when one rises in the sky, the other sets.
Scorpions are mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud as symbols of danger and maliciousness.
Since classical times, the scorpion with its powerful stinger has been used to provide a name for weapons.
The fable of The Scorpion and the Frog has been interpreted as showing that vicious people cannot resist hurting others, even when it is not in their interests.
Scorpius is the name of a constellation, and the corresponding astrological sign is Scorpio – a classical myth tells how the giant scorpion and its enemy, Orion, became constellations on opposite sides of the sky.