The Imperial Scorpion is one of the most famous species and also one of the largest in the world. This is one of the oldest creatures that have survived to this day. Scorpions have lived on planet Earth for almost 300 million years, and over the years they have not changed much. You can watch them in their natural environment only at night. There are over a thousand species of scorpions, all of which are venomous to some degree, but only about twenty of them have a deadly bite.
Origin of the species and description
The emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is the largest scorpion species in the world. Its length averages about 20-21 cm, and the weight — 30 g. Pregnant women are much larger and heavier than their relatives. However, some species of forest scorpions are quite similar in size, and the scorpion Heterometrus swammerdami holds the world record among fellows in length (23 cm). Animals are growing fast. Their life cycle is a maximum of 8 years. They reach full maturity in 5-6 years (adult size).
Historical note! The genus was first described by K. L. Koch in 1842. Later, in 1876, Tamerlane Thorell described and recognized it as his own genus discovered.
Then the genus was subdivided into five subgenera, but the division into subgenera is now in question. Other common names by which the animal is known are the Black Emperor Scorpion and the African Emperor Scorpion.
Video: Emperor Scorpion
The common ancestor of all arachnids probably resembled the now-extinct eurypterids or sea scorpions, formidable aquatic predators that lived about 350-550 million years ago. Using their example, it is easy to trace the evolutionary movement from aquatic existence to a terrestrial way of life. Eurypterids, who lived in the water element and had gills, had many similarities with the current scorpions. Land varieties similar to modern scorpions existed in the Carboniferous.
In the history of mankind, scorpions have taken a special place. They are part of the mythology of many nations. Representatives of the genus are mentioned in the «Book of the Dead» in Egypt, Koran, Bible. The animal was considered sacred by the goddess Selket, one of the daughters of Ra, the patroness of the world of the dead.
Appearance and features
The imperial scorpion is dark blue or bright black in color, with some areas flecked with brown and a grainy texture. The sides of the body have a whitish stripe that extends from the head to the tail. The tip of which is known as the telson and has an intense red color that contrasts with the entire anatomy of the animal.
After molting, these scorpions acquire a golden color from tail to head, which gradually darkens, down to the intense black color, the usual color of adults individuals.
Fun fact! Emperor scorpions are fluorescent under ultraviolet light. They appear bluish green, allowing humans and other animals to detect them and take precautions.
Adult scorpions are difficult to tell apart as males and females look the same. Their exoskeleton is highly sclerotic. The front part of the body, or prosoma, is made up of four parts, each with a pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are ridge-like structures known as pectins, which tend to be longer in males than in females. The tail, known as the metasoma, is long and curves backwards across the body. It ends in a large vessel with poisonous glands and a pointed, curved sting.
The emperor scorpion can move very quickly over short distances. Moving long distances, he takes many rest breaks. Like many scorpions, he has very little stamina during his activity stages. It tends to be nocturnal and does not leave its hiding places during the day.
Where does the emperor scorpion live?
The emperor scorpion is an African species found in tropical rainforests, but also found in the savannah in close proximity to termite mounds.
It has been found in a number of African countries, including:
- Benin (small population in the western part of the country);
- Burkana Faso (very common, almost everywhere);
- Ivory Coast (quite common, especially in difficult available places);
- Gambia (it is far from being in the first positions among representatives of scorpions in this country);
- Ghana (most individuals are found in the western part of the country);
- Guinea (distributed everywhere);
- Guinea-Bissau (found in small quantities);
- Togo (revered as a deity by the locals);
- Liberia (found in the damp shrouds of the western and central parts);
- Mali (the population of the emperor scorpion is distributed over most of the country);
- Nigeria (a common species among representatives of the local fauna);
- Senegal (few individuals present);
- Sierra Lyon (large colonies observed in eastern tropical forests);
- Cameroon (quite common among fauna).
The emperor scorpion lives in deep underground tunnels, under rocks, branch debris, and other forest debris, and in termite mounds. Pectins are sensory organs that help determine the area where they are located. The species prefers a relative humidity of 70-80%. For them, the most comfortable daytime temperature is 26-28 °C, at night from 20 to 25 °C.
What does the emperor scorpion eat?
In the wild, emperor scorpions primarily consume insects such as crickets, as well as other terrestrial invertebrates, but termites make up the majority of their diet. They rarely eat larger vertebrates such as rodents and lizards.
Emperor scorpions hide near termite mounds up to 180 cm deep to hunt prey. Their large claws are adapted for tearing prey, and their tail stinger injects poison to help thin the food. Juveniles rely on their venomous sting to paralyze prey, while adult scorpions use their large claws more.
Curious! Sensitive hair covering the pincers and tail allows the emperor scorpion to detect prey through vibrations in the air and on the ground.
Preferring to walk at night, the emperor scorpion can be active during the day if light levels are low. Imperial scorpion champion post. He can live up to a year without food. One single moth will feed him for a whole month.
Despite the fact that this is a huge scorpion with a formidable appearance, its poison is not fatal to humans. The venom of the African emperor scorpion is mild and has moderate toxicity. It contains toxins such as imperatoxin and pandinotoxin.
Scorpion stings can be categorized as mild but painful (similar to bee stings). Most people are not affected by the sting of an emperor scorpion, although some may be allergic. Various ion channel toxins have been isolated from the venom of the emperor scorpion, including Pi1, Pi2, Pi3, Pi4, and Pi7.
This species is one of the few representatives of scorpions that can communicate in groups. In animals, subsociality is noted: females and offspring often live together. The imperial scorpion is not aggressive and does not attack relatives. However, food shortages sometimes lead to cannibalism.
The eyesight of imperial scorpions is very poor, and the other senses are well developed. The emperor scorpion is known for its docile demeanor and almost harmless bite. Adults do not use their sting to protect themselves. However, stinging may be used for protection in adolescence. The amount of poison injected is dosed.
Interesting fact! Some of the molecules that make up the venom are currently being researched as scientists believe they may have properties against malaria and other bacteria harmful to human health.
This is a strong animal that can withstand temperature extremes up to 50 ° C. Afraid of the sun and hides all day to eat only in the evening. In addition, it exhibits a low climbing requirement, which is rare in other scorpions. It rises along the roots and sticks to vegetation up to a height of about 30 cm. It digs up caves at a depth of up to 90 cm.
Curious! Freezing is not particularly harmful to scorpions. They gradually thaw under the rays of the sun and live on. Also, these ancient animals can be under water for about two days without breathing.
Social structure and reproduction
Imperial scorpions reach sexual maturity at the age of four. They engage in an elaborate dance where the male moves around trying to find a suitable place to store the sperm. After donating the sperm, the male maneuvers with the female over the place where she will receive the sperm. Animals are viviparous. When a female becomes pregnant, the female’s body expands, revealing the whitish shells that connect the segments.
The gestation period lasts about 12-15 months, as a result, up to fifty whitish spiders (usually 15-25) are born, which before that hatch from eggs directly in the uterus. Babies gradually leave the uterus, the birth process can last up to 4 days. Emperor scorpions are born defenseless and rely heavily on their mother for food and protection.
A curious fact! Females carry the young on their body for up to 20 days. Numerous offspring cling to the back, stomach and legs of the female, and they descend to the ground only after the first molt. While on the mother’s body, they feed on her cuticular epithelium.
Mothers will sometimes continue to feed their young, even if they are mature enough to live on their own. Young scorpions are born white and keep proteins and nutrients in their squat bodies for another 4 to 6 weeks. They harden 14 days after their reservoirs turn black.
First, slightly grown scorpions eat the food of animals hunted by their mother. Growing up, they are separated from their mother and look for their own areas for food. Sometimes they form small groups in which they live peacefully together.
Natural enemies of emperor scorpions
Imperial scorpions have a fair amount of enemies. Birds, bats, small mammals, large spiders, centipedes and lizards constantly prey on them. When attacked, the scorpion covers an area of 50 by 50 centimeters, actively defends and quickly retreats.
Its enemies include:
- meerkat ;
- blink and others.
He reacts to aggression against himself from a position of threat, but he is not aggressive himself and avoids conflicts with any vertebrates, starting from adult mice. Emperor scorpions can see and recognize other animals up to a meter away as long as they are moving, so they are often the target of attack. When defending with a scorpion, strong pedipalps (leg tentacles) are used. However, in heavy fights or when attacked by rodents, they use venomous bites to immobilize the attacker. The Emperor Scorpion is immune to its venom.
However, the main enemy of the imperial scorpion is people. Unauthorized collection has greatly reduced their number in Africa. In the nineties, 100,000 individuals were exported from Africa, which led to fears and a wary reaction from animal rights activists. It is now believed that captive populations are large enough to significantly reduce hunting for wild specimens.
Population and species status
The Imperial Scorpion is a popular species with pet lovers. This has affected the excessive removal of representatives of the species from the wild fauna. The animal attracts exotic lovers because it is easy to keep and breeds well in captivity.
On a note! Along with Pandinus dictator and Pandinus gambiensis, the emperor scorpion is currently protected. It is included in the special list of CITES. Any purchase or gift must be accompanied by an invoice or proof of destination, and a special CITES number is required for import.
Currently, emperor scorpions can still be imported from African countries, but this may change if export numbers drastically will be reduced. This would indicate a possible adverse effect on the animal population from over-harvesting in its habitats. This species is the most common scorpion in captivity and is readily available in the pet trade, but export quotas have been set by CITES.
P. diactator and P. gambiensis are rare in the pet trade. The species Pandinus africanus is listed by some commercial dealers. This name is not valid and is possibly used only to cover up the export of members of the imperial scorpion species from the CITES list.