Scorpions Can Live for as Much as a Year Without Eating

Today I found out scorpions can survive as much as a year without eating.

Scorpions are amazing little creatures. With almost two thousand known species found on six of the seven continents, these arthropods have been able to adapt to some of the harshest environments on earth. One evolutionary benefit they have gained is the ability to slow down their metabolic rate. Scorpions also have an organ called the “hepatopancreas” which is extremely efficient and fulfills the functions equivalent to the liver and pancreas found in humans.

In addition to this, scorpions have the ability to consume large quantities of food compared to their body size. For instance, they have been known to eat up to one third their body weight in a single meal. Due to the large amount of food consumed, the extremely efficient way their bodies handle the nutrition, and the ability to slow their metabolism, scorpions are able to survive up to 12 months without eating.

The way scorpion metabolism works also has benefits not seen in other animal species. While a slow metabolic rate is common in those animals that hibernate, these same animals do not have the ability to quickly speed it back up should the need arise. Scorpions, on the other hand, are not saddled with this weakness. While resting in their metabolic slumber, they can still strike quickly if a situation calls for it, like when unsuspecting prey happens by. It is also thought that this ability has conditioned the scorpion to be able to survive conditions where a slow metabolism might be forced. For example, in one study, scientists froze scorpions for 24 hours, only to have them continue on with their predatory ways once they thawed out.

Bonus Facts:

  • Along with the amazing ability to not eat for a year, some species of scorpion can withstand being underwater for up to two days, while others can withstand temperatures of 117 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The word scorpion is thought to have arisen around 1200 AD, deriving from either the French word skorpiō or the Italian scorpione. Both of these words came from the Greek word skorpíos. The oldest scorpion fossils have been dated to around 430 million years ago and there are currently 111 known fossil species in existence. Interestingly, some of these first scorpion fossils show they once had gills, instead of the respiratory organs (book lungs) they have today.
  • All of the 25 known scorpion species capable of killing humans are members of the Buthidae family. This family produces a complex neurotoxin that causes convulsions, paralysis, and cardiac irregularities. All of these symptoms precede death, which can be avoided should antivenom be administered.
  • It is thought that most scorpions only eat 5-50 times per year.
  • Antarctica is the only place on Earth where you won’t find scorpions.
  • Scorpion bodies fluoresce under ultraviolet light. This occurs as a result of their exoskeleton being created by the crossing of protein chains in their excuticle. Because of this, the use of ultraviolet black lights is the standard method which biologists observe their behavior at night. As the scorpion grows with each successive instar, the intensity of their fluorescence increases.
  • Chitin, the stuff that makes up the exoskeleton of the scorpion, is used for a number of other applications such as: a wound healing agent, a delivery vehicle for medications, and a size and strengthening additive for certain types of paper.
  • Interestingly, scorpion venom is currently being studied to combat pain.  With the dependency side-effects of many drugs on the market, like morphine and Vicodin, researchers are looking everywhere for a solution to pain control without addiction.  Peptide toxins in scorpion venom affect sodium channels.  There are 9 sodium channels in the human body and only certain ones transmit pain signals to the brain.  If researchers can figure out how scorpion toxins interact with these subtypes, they will hopefully be able to find a way to halt pain signals to the brain.
  • Scorpions are arthropods.  They are an invertebrate with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. They can range in size from ½ inch to approximately 7 ½ inches. Their average lifespan in the wild is 2-10 years; however, some scorpions in captivity have been known to live for 25 years. The exoskeleton is made of Chitin. They have eight legs, two claws, between 6-12 eyes and a tail that injects poisonous venom. Of the numerous species known, approximately 25 have poison capable of killing a human.
  • Even though they have between 6-12 eyes, depending on the species, they cannot see all that well, at least, not sharp images. Despite this drawback, their central eyes are known to be some of the most light sensitive eyes in the animal kingdom. This allows them to navigate during the night using shadows formed by starlight. Aside from their central eyes, the outer, or lateral, eyes only have the ability to sense the changes in light intensity. This gives them the ability to establish their daily cycles. Some scorpion species even have light receptors in their tails.
  • Their lungs, known as book lungs, sit inside their abdominal cavity and are connected to the environment via a small opening. As the scorpion moves, carbon dioxide and oxygen exchanges passively across parallel lamellae of thin cuticle. This is arranged to look like the pages of a closed book, thus the term “Book Lungs”. These lungs and certain differences in means of locomotion are the primary body systems that differ from the first known fossilized scorpions, which had gills.
  • The wide range of habitat that scorpions populate, combined with the sheer number of species, have allowed the scorpion legs to evolve in interesting ways. The sand-dwelling Psammophilic species have setea (bristles) on their feet that increase their surface area allowing them to walk on the sand without sinking or losing traction. The rock climbing Hadogenes Troglodytes species are found only on rocks and have curved claws on their setea that allow them to cling to the rocks, even upside down.  Many other species in many other environments have evolved similar adaptations.
  • Depending on the species, scorpions can have between 2 and 100 offspring. The average, however, is 8. Once born, these little scorplings climb on their mother’s back until their first molt. After this, they live independently while continuing several more molts, typically between five and seven, before reaching adulthood. These molts are known as “instars” and their developmental progress is measured by them. Don’t be fooled by the extremely little ones, even young scorpions can inject the same amount of venom, with every sting, as their adult counterparts.
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6 comments

  • “These molts are known as “instars” and their developmental progress is measured by them. ”

    Actually, the instar is the time *between* the molts.

  • Antarctica is the only place on Earth where you won’t find scorpions.
    Correction:
    Antarctica is the only CONTINENT on Earth where you won’t find scorpions.

    There are lots of places on every continent on earth where they are not found, especially in colder and high altitude climates.

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