Tailless Whip Scorpion


ORDER: Amblypygi

FAMILY: Phrynidae

GENUS: Damon

SPECIES: variegatus

DESCRIPTION:
Although arachnids, Tailless Whip Scorpions (sometimes called whip spiders) are neither spider nor scorpion but resemble a cross between the two. As the name implies, they have no tail and the first pair of legs which can stretch to as much as 10 inches act as whip-like feelers. The foremost body section has a shell-like covering and is wider than it is long. They have eight legs and there is one pair of eyes at the front of the cephalothorax and three pairs of eyes on the sides. Their flat, oval-shaped bodies measure .3 to 2 inches, depending on species. D.variegatus is also known as the Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whip Scorpion, since it can measure 7.5 inches with legs spread.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Tailless whip scorpions live in various habitats (forest, scrub, desert) in both temperate and tropical regions of the world. D. variegatus lives in Tanzania and Kenya.

DIET:
Insects and worms.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Nocturnal and arboreal. The male courts the female with trembling movements of his extra long legs, guiding her to a sperm packet he has deposited. She inserts it into her reproductive opening. Six to sixty eggs are kept in a membranous sac underneath her abdomen until they hatch. Young are carried on their mother's back until their second molt, after which they scatter. Life span is 2 to 3 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
This amblypygid uses its front whip-like legs as sensory organs to aid in hunting and orientation; it walks sideways with these front legs leading the way. The pedipalps (leg-like mouthparts) are used to capture and hold insect prey as it is torn apart by the chelicerae(fangs).

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
When Professor Moody used one of these to practice his "Unforgivable Curses" in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it was suggested even one bite could kill. That makes a good story but this "scorpion" has no venom and is harmless to humans. They can pinch in defense however.

OUR ANIMALS:

STATUS IN WILD:
Not listed by IUCN as endangered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Internet: Saint Louis Zoo Web Page; everythingabout.net; centralpets.com
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006 Prem. Serv. 3. Adam Fink, Oakland Zoo Keeper.

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