The Emperor Scorpion is one of the most famous species and also one of the largest in the world. This is one of the oldest surviving creatures. Scorpions have been on planet Earth for almost 300 million years, and have not changed much over the years. 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 one degree or another, but only about twenty of them have a fatal bite.
Origin of the Species
The Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is the largest scorpion species in the world. Its length is on average about 20-21 cm, and its weight is 30 g. Pregnant females are much larger and heavier than their relatives. However, some species of forest scorpions are quite similar in size, and the scorpion Heterometrus swammerdami is the world record holder among its cousins in length (23 cm). The animals are growing rapidly. Their life cycle is a maximum of 8 years. They reach full maturity in 5-6 years (adult size).
Historical reference! The genus was first described by K.L. Koch in 1842. Later in 1876, Tamerlane Torell described and identified Emperor Scorpion.
Then the genus was subdivided into five subgenera, but the division into subgenera is now in question. Other common names for the animal are Black Emperor Scorpion and African 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. By their example, it is easy to trace the evolutionary movement from aquatic existence to a terrestrial way of life. Those who lived in the water element and had a gill, eurypterids had many similarities with today’s scorpions. Terrestrial species, similar to modern scorpions, existed in the Carboniferous period.
Scorpions have occupied a special place in the history of mankind. They are part of the mythology of many peoples. Representatives of the clan are mentioned in the “Book of the Dead” in Egypt, the Koran, the 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 Emperor Scorpion is deep blue or bright black interspersed with brown and grainy textures in some areas. The lateral parts of the body have a whitish stripe that extends from head to tail. The tip of which is known as 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, up to the intense black color, the usual color of adults.
Fun fact! Emperor Scorpions are fluorescent in ultraviolet light. They appear bluish-green, allowing humans and other animals to detect them and take precautions.
Adult scorpions are difficult to distinguish as males and females look the same. Their exoskeleton is highly sclerotic. The front part of the body, or prosoma, consists of four parts, each with a pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are ridged structures known as pectins, which are generally longer in males than in females. The tail, known as the metasoma, is long and curves backward throughout the body. It ends in a large vessel with venom glands and a pointed curved sting.
The Emperor Scorpion can travel very quickly over short distances. When traveling long distances, he takes many rest breaks. Like many scorpions, it has very little stamina during the activity stages. He is prone to a nocturnal lifestyle and does not leave his hiding places during the day.
The Emperor Scorpion is an African species native to tropical rainforests, but is also present in the savannah, in the vicinity of termite mounds. Its location has been recorded in a number of African countries, including:
- Benin (small population in the western part of the country);
- Burkina Faso (very widespread, almost everywhere);
- Cote D’Ivoire (quite common, especially in hard-to-reach places);
- Gambia (it is far from being in the first positions among the representatives of the scorpions of this country);
- Ghana (most individuals are located in the western part of the country);
- Guinea (widespread everywhere);
- Guinea-Bissau (found in small quantities);
- Togo (revered by the locals as a deity);
- Liberia (found in wet shrouds of the western and central parts);
- Mali (the population of the imperial scorpion is distributed over most of the country);
- Nigeria (a common species among the local fauna);
- Senegal (small number of individuals present);
- Sierra Leone (large colonies are observed in the eastern rainforests);
- Cameroon (quite common among the fauna).
The Emperor Scorpion lives in deep underground tunnels, under rocks, tree debris, and other forest debris, as well as in termite mounds. Pectins are the senses that help determine the area where they are. 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.
In the wild, Emperor Scorpions primarily consume insects such as crickets and other terrestrial invertebrates, but termites make up the bulk of their diet. Less commonly, they eat larger vertebrates such as rodents and lizards.
Emperor Scorpions hide near termite mounds to a depth of 180 cm to hunt for prey. Their large claws are adapted to tear apart prey, and their tail sting injects venom to help thin food. Juvenile scorpions rely on their venomous sting to paralyze prey, while adult scorpions use their large claws more.
Curious! The delicate hair covering the pincers and tail allows the Emperor Scorpion to detect prey through vibrations in the air and on the ground.
Preferring for walks at night, the Emperor Scorpion can be active during the day if the light level is low. The Emperor Scorpion is a fasting champion. He can live without food for up to a year.
Despite the fact that it is a huge scorpion with a formidable appearance, its poison is not fatal to humans. The venom of the Emperor Scorpion is mild and has moderate toxicity. Scorpion bites can be categorized as light but painful (similar to bee stings). Most people do not suffer from an Emperor Scorpion bite, 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.
Features of Character and Lifestyle
This species is one of the few scorpions that can communicate in groups. Subsociality is noted in animals: females and offspring often live together. The Emperor Scorpion is not aggressive and does not attack its relatives. However, food shortages sometimes lead to cannibalism.
The eyesight of the Emperor 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, sting bites may be used for protection during adolescence. The amount of injected poison is dosed.
Interesting fact! Some of the molecules that make up the venom are currently being investigated because scientists believe they may have properties against malaria and other bacteria harmful to human health.
It is a robust animal that can withstand temperature extremes of up to 50 ° C. Afraid of the sun and hides all day to eat only in the evening. It also demonstrates a low climbing requirement, which is rare in other scorpions. It rises along with the roots and sticks to vegetation to a height of up to 30 cm. Cave digs up to a depth of 90 cm.
Curious! Freezing is not particularly bad for scorpions. They gradually thaw under the rays of the sun and live on. Also, these ancient animals can stay underwater for about two days without breathing.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The Emperor Scorpions reach maturity by the age of four. They participate in an intricate dance where the male moves around trying to find a suitable place to store sperm. After donating the sperm, the male maneuvers with the female over the place where she will receive the sperm. Animals are viviparous. When the female becomes pregnant, the female’s body expands, exposing the whitish membranes 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 right 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.
An interesting fact! Females carry babies on their bodies for up to 20 days. Numerous offspring cling to the back, belly, 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 sometimes continue to feed their young, even if they are mature enough to live on their own. Young scorpions are born white and contain protein and nutrients in their squat bodies for another 4 to 6 weeks. They harden 14 days after their reservoirs turn black. First, the slightly grown scorpions eat the food of the animals that the mother hunted. As they grow up, they are separated from their mother and look for their own feeding areas. Sometimes they form small groups in which they live peacefully together.
Natural Enemies of Emperor Scorpions
The Emperor Scorpions have many enemies. They are constantly hunted by birds, bats, small mammals, large spiders, millipedes, and lizards. When attacking, the scorpion occupies an area of 50 by 50 centimeters, actively defends itself, and quickly retreats. Enemies of the scorpion:
- blinked and others.
Scorpio 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 at a distance of about a meter while they are moving, so they often become the object of attack. When defending, strong pedipalps (legs) are used. However, in heavy fights or when attacked by rodents, they use poison bites to immobilize the attacker. The Emperor Scorpion is immune to its poison.
However, the main enemy of Emperor Scorpion is the people. The unauthorized collection has greatly reduced their number in Africa. In the 1990s, 100,000 animals were exported from Africa, prompting fears and a wary response from animal advocates. Captive populations are now believed to be large enough to significantly reduce wild hunting.
Population and Status of the Species
The Emperor Scorpion is a popular species among pet lovers. This influenced the excessive removal of representatives of the species from the wild fauna. The animal attracts exotic lovers because it is easy to keep and reproduces well in captivity.
On a note! Together with Pandinus dictator and Pandinus gambiensis, Emperor Scorpion is currently under protection. It is included in the special CITES list. Any purchase or gift must be accompanied by an invoice or certificate of appointment, a special CITES number is required for import.
Currently, Emperor Scorpions can still be imported from African countries, but this may change if the number of exports is sharply reduced. This would indicate a possible adverse effect on the animal population from over-harvesting in its habitat. This species is the most common scorpion in captivity and is readily available in the pet trade, but CITES has set export quotas.
P. diactator and P. gambiensis are rare in the pet trade. The species Pandinus Africanus is found on some commercial dealer listings. This name is invalid and may only be used to cover the export of the Emperor Scorpion species from the CITES list.