Bug of the month

by Maik Fiedel
Publish date
1 November 2011
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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


Infosheet: Scorpions

Infosheet: Scorpion facts and fallacies

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