Pseudoscorpions: Facts, Habitat & Characteristics

Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

In this lesson, we'll be looking at pseudoscorpions, which are tiny creatures that aren't exactly what their name may suggest. After you learn what they are, where they live, and what they're like, you'll be able to test your knowledge with a quiz!

What is a Pseudoscorpion?

'EEK! Pseudoscorpion!' isn't an exclamation you're likely to hear. When you hear the word 'scorpion', I'm guessing a very distinct (and frightening) picture comes to mind. You probably imagine a creature with large front arms and a long, stinging tail. Indeed, some scorpions have dangerous venom in their tails which puts a decent and legitimate amount of fear in people.

Pseudoscorpions are also known as false scorpions. They look similar, but are in fact different animals
image of a pseudoscorpion

When you hear the word pseudoscorpion, you shouldn't have the same reaction, because these guys are harmless. In fact, you're not even likely to see the tiny creatures. The prefix 'pseudo' is your giveaway here, because it means 'false' or 'fake.' So a good way to think of these guys is 'false scorpions,' since they look like them, but aren't. They are related though. Like scorpions, pseudoscorpions are arachnids, which includes other famous things like spider, ticks, and mites. Arachnids are different from insects, and you can tell them apart because they have eight legs instead of six.

Spiders, like other arachnids, have 8 legs

While scorpions are anywhere from 2.5-8 inches long, pseudoscorpions are a fraction of this size. Some may be as small as 1/16 of an inch or 1.5mm, while others may be as large as 1/5 of an inch or 5mm. That's less than the length of your fingernail!

Pseudoscorpions do have those long front appendages called pedipalps, which makes them sort of look like a larger scorpion but without the long tail. They are reddish-brown in color, walk like a crab, and can move sideways and backwards very quickly. There are about 4,000 known species of pseudoscorpion.

Life Characteristics

Pseudoscorpions generally live about 2-4 years. They may produce one or two new generations of baby pseudoscorpions a year, and the mating ritual is pretty interesting. The male will create a mating 'ring' that the female enters, after which he does a dance for her. He deposits a sac of sperm, leads her to it, and she picks it up. But the most interesting part? This elaborate process can take up to an hour!

The female pseudoscorpion will produce 20-40 eggs and once they hatch her little baby pseudoscorpions will actually stay with her for several days before going their own ways into the world. They will molt three times before they reach adulthood, a period of time that's dependent on temperature and can take up to two years.

Habitat and Diet

Pseudoscorpions are found all around the world and they inhabit all sorts of places. They do prefer places that are warm and humid, so they're more likely to be found in leaf litter, under tree bark, in animal nests, and under stones. They may also make their way into your house, though you really shouldn't worry if they do. First, it's unlikely that you'll have an infestation, since they tend to occur only in small numbers. And even if they're there, you probably won't even see them as they are so small and like to hide in cracks and crevices. They're also harmless in that they don't bite or sting, or cause damage to clothes, food, or other things in your house.

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