Scorpions: Life Cycle & Reproduction

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

While scorpions may look like an insect, they are not. In fact, there is a lot about the scorpion that makes it pretty unique. This lesson will examine the life cycle, and mating habits of these arachnids.

What is a Scorpion?

Sure, you've probably heard of a scorpion and, depending on where you live, you may have even seen one. But, how much do you know about these eight-legged arthropods? For example, how many of these scorpion facts did you know?

  • They are closely related to spiders.
  • Scorpions can be found on every single continent, except Antarctica.
  • They can go six to 12 months without eating a meal.
  • There are more than 1,500 scorpion species, and of these, around 25 species have venom that's strong enough to kill a human.
  • If you put a scorpion under a black light, it will glow due to chemicals they have in their exoskeleton.
  • The average scorpion is about two-and-a-half inches long. The rock scorpion, however, can reach lengths over eight inches. Yikes!
  • The Greeks were so enamored with scorpions, they named a constellation after them (Scorpius), which is a sign in the zodiac. Do you know any Scorpios?

An adult female scorpion
scorpe

Fun facts aside, what exactly is a scorpion? As mentioned earlier, scorpions are arthropods, which includes critters like crabs, insects, spiders, and mites (just to name a few). In fact, around 84% of animals are arthropods, so the scorpion is in good company. They belong to a group of arthropods known as arachnids, and scorpions share the following characteristics (check out the diagram to see where the following structures are located):

  • A three-part body consisting of: a head, an abdomen and a tail (structures 1, 2, and 3)
  • Pedipalps (structure 4), which are appendages coming off of the body of arachnids. These are specialized in scorpions to have clawed (structures 8 and 9) pincers at their ends (structure 7).
  • Eight legs (structure 5 )
  • Mouth parts called chelicerae (structure 6)
  • A curved tail with a venomous barb (structures 10 and 11)
  • An organ for respiration called the book lung (structure 12)
  • A chitin exoskeleton (which is similar to a shrimp's shell)

Scorpion anatomy
scorptionimage

Let's check out the life cycle and mating habits of the scorpion, both of which are pretty unusual!

Life Cycle

Let's begin the life cycle with the birth of the baby scorpions. Unlike insects, which lay eggs, scorpions give live birth. The mother will give birth to between 2 and 100 babies, which have a soft exoskeleton. The female scorpion will create a 'birth basket' by positioning her pedipalps and front legs to capture her offspring as they are born.

For protection, the babies will crawl onto their mother's back for several weeks until their exoskeleton hardens enough to protect them. Unfortunately, for the babies, if the mother scorpion gets low on food, she'll eat her own offspring. Generally, however, the mother spends a lot of time protecting her babies, which is unusual in the world of arthropods.

Female scorpion with her offspring on her back
scorpt

As the baby scorpions grow, they shed their skin (or molt) and eventually leave the safety of their mother's back. The offspring continue to molt and grow for a few months to years until they are adults. The lifespan is quite variable, but is usually between 2 and 6 years with some species living 20 years. Mating occurs during the adult stage, and is quite fascinating. Let's take a closer took at scorpion reproduction.

Mating

Remember, there are lots of species of scorpion, so we'll do a general overview of mating (which may not apply to all species). Mating occurs during warmer periods (late spring through fall), and begins with the male scorpion searching for a mate. Scientists believe the male finds the female through a pheromone that she releases.

Once he finds a female, he dances with her by grabbing her pedipalps, and walking. This is called the scorpion's dance. If the female is agitated, the male may drug her by injecting her with a small amount of venom.

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