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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: scorpion (2)

Secret diary of a field trip

Author
by Blair
Publish date
21 November 2012
Comments
Comments (3)

Today I’m broadcasting from a sweet spot in the Grampians National Park, western Victoria. The museum is conducting a fauna survey with Parks Victoria here over the next two weeks. It’s spectacular countryside and this blog is the start of the stories from the trip that will involve over 60 museum staff and associates, including the Melbourne Herbarium and Field Naturalists Club of Victoria.

Here’s how the trip started and the first few days of excitement, diary style. Stay in touch for more updates, photos of critters, or leave us comments if you have questions. We will be in touch when the internet reception comes good again.

9 days to go – 10.30am. Meet and greet with Parks Victoria rangers to discuss schedules.

6 days to go – 3.30pm. Final planning meeting at Museum Victoria.

1 day to go – 10.27am. Purchase 1 FME-Sierra cable, 1 FME-SMA adaptor, 1 male SMA-female SMA plug (for remote internet access). To think that ten years ago the nearest communication on a trip like this would have been a telephone booth on a highway in the nearest town 50 kilometres away.

1 day to go – 11.23pm. Throw some survival stuff on the floor for packing in the morning.

collection of clothing, books,a camera and other camping equipment on the floor Last minute packing for the field trip.
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 1 – 12.23pm. On route, traditional field trip greasy burger for lunch. Delish.

Day 1 – 4.14pm. Arrive at camping site, first wildlife sighted. A skink. I’m not a herpetologist so cannot tell the species.

Day 1 – 10.03pm. Mayhem in the mess hall. First collection has brought back scorpions. Look at the photo below to see how many scientists it takes to be amazed by a scorpion as it fluoresces under UV light! Similar scorpions live in backyards around Melbourne, occassionally entering houses. Usually the smaller scorpion species have more powerful stings because the larger species can overpower prey with their larger claws. The museum’s Live Exhibits catcher, Colin, said: “I haven’t been stung by this species, but a smaller one did get me once and that was a bit painful.”

Group of people gathered around a man holding a scorpion How many scientists does it take to watch a glowing scorpion?
Image: Blair Patullo
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Glowing scorpion being held in a hand This species glows under UV light from a torch. Why this happens is still a mystery.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 2 – 8.30am. Another safety briefing closely followed by research teams departing and dispersing to areas across the park. Mammal specialists are checking trap lines, bird observers are out with sound recording equipment, and a group is surveying snails.

Day 2 – 2.52pm. The divers get wet in a remote part of the MacKenzie River in the north-west of the park. Our Parks Victoria guide Ryan Duffy stops our vehicles by the roadside, seemingly in the middle of nowhere with no water in sight. We walk for about 100 metres into the forest, dodging the understory of bracken, wattle, and eucalypts still with trunks partly singed black from the 2006 fire. We arrive at a narrow section of the river and Ryan tells us that three platypus have been reported from here. There were no platypus today but the diving was amazing – freshwater sponges, crayfish, native fish and several species of nymphs and larvae were recorded.

Fish lying in the sand One of the locals: a freshwater gudgeon.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Brown nymph on sand This little alien is a nymph that will grow into a dragonfly.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Day 2 – 10.07pm. It's well dark now, but the second day isn't over. We're preparing for 30 degree temperatures tomorrow and the frog team just left to see who's calling-out tonight.

Closing thoughts for the day: this is definitely a place to check shoes for creepy crawlies in the morning before putting them on, and forget checking for redbacks under the toilet seat because the massive bull ants will bite before them.

Bug of the month

Author
by Maik Fiedel
Publish date
1 November 2011
Comments
Comments (0)

Maik is an Assistant Keeper with the Live Exhibits Unit.

Live Exhibits recently acquired some Flinders Ranges Scorpions. They are not on display to the public but will be used for educational purposes.

The Flinders Ranges Scorpion (Urodacus elongatus) is one of Australia's largest scorpion species, with males growing up to 120mm long. Females are usually shorter and more full-bodied. The adults of both sexes are uniformly brown in colour.

These scorpions are found throughout the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Sexual dimorphism is obvious in this species with males having a very elongated tail, which is where the species name elongatus comes from.

Male and female Flinders Ranges Scorpions. Sexual dimorphism within the Flinders Ranges Scorpion Urodacus elongatus. Male on the right with elongated tail.
Image: Maik Fiedel
Source: Maik Fiedel

Being a temperate species, it can be found living under rocks and logs in the moist gully areas of the ranges. They are territorial and usually solitary. These scorpions build a scrape under rock, creating a shallow burrow. In order to maintain a stable microclimate, they seal off their burrows as temperatures rise.

Scorpions are negatively phototaxic (moving away from light) and they hunt for their prey at night. It is possible for scorpions to overpower prey that is larger than themselves, such as skinks or centipedes, however, they prefer food items roughly 50 per cent of their own body size. Females will also eat their own offspring if stressed or starved. Scorpions drink water droplets off rock surfaces and also obtain water via osmosis. During the cooler months of the year, the scorpions are less active and will generally feed less.

scorpion eating a cricket Urodacus elongatus feeding on a cricket.
Image: Maik Fiedel
Source: Maik Fiedel
 

As part of courtship, an interesting 'mating dance' is performed. The male takes hold of the female and stings her claw, which has a calming effect. This is necessary because if she becomes aggressive she will attempt to kill the male. In order to mate successfully the scorpions need to be positioned on an even rock surface. The male looks for the correct surface, without breaking his hold of the female. When it is found he deposits his spermatophore onto the rock surface and he drags the female over the top for fertilisation. Once the female has received the sperm the male releases his hold and departs.

A pair of Flinders Ranges Scorpions A pair of Flinders Ranges Scorpions prior to engaging in the mating ritual, which includes the mating dance and the sexual sting.
Image: Maik Fiedel
Source: Maik Fiedel

After about 18 months, the female gives birth to 20-50 live young which climb up onto the her back. They leave her back at two months of age, to go their own way. Flinders Ranges Scorpions reach maturity (adulthood) after four years and can easily live up to eight years.

Australia's scorpions are not considered dangerous to humans, however, scorpions are venomous. There is still a possibility that you may be allergic to their venom, like some people are allergic to a bee sting. You should never touch a scorpion with your bare hands.

Scorpion glowing under UV light. Like all scorpions, Urodacus elongatus will fluoresce under UV light.
Image: Maik Fiedel
Source: Maik Fiedel
 

Further reading:

Newton M.A. 2008. A Guide to Keeping Australian Scorpions in Captivity, Mark A. Newton Publishing

Links:

Infosheet: Scorpions

Infosheet: Scorpion facts and fallacies

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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