Desert design... scorpions are master architects

Jul 02, 2014
A large-clawed scorpion (Scorpio maurus palmatus). Credit: Stuart Summerfield

Israeli scientists have discovered that scorpion burrows have a platform on which to warm up before the evening hunt.

The researchers, represented by Dr Amanda Adams (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel), investigated the burrows of wild Large-Clawed Scorpions (Scorpio maurus palmatus) in the Negev Desert of Israel. After trapping the scorpions, they prepared replica casts of their burrows by filling them with molten aluminium. Once the casts had solidified, they were then dug out to be analysed by a 3D laser scanner and computer software. Rather than being simple holes in the ground, it was found that the burrows followed a very sophisticated design. Each burrow began with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattened out a few centimetres below the surface into a horizontal platform. The researchers believe that this provides a safe, warm place for the scorpions to increase their body temperature before they leave the burrow to forage at night. As ectothermic animals, scorpions rely on energy from the environment to regulate their internal temperature.

The burrows then turn sharply downwards, descending further below ground to form a dead-ended chamber. Being cool and humid, this chamber provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day, where evaporative water loss is minimal. As the design was common to all the burrows studied, this suggests that burrow building in has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals' physiological needs.

"Very little is known about burrow environments" says Dr Adams. "We plan to expand our studies to more scorpion species around the world to test how burrow structure is shaped to be part of the burrow builder's extended physiology." Understanding the relationship between environmental conditions and burrow structures, meanwhile, could help to predict how burrow-builders will respond to climate change.

This is an epoxy resin cast of a scorpion burrow. You can see the scorpion at the bottom. Credit: Photo Credits: Berry Pinshow

This work is to be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting 2014 in Manchester on Thursday 3rd July.

Explore further: Tracing large tetrapod burrows from the Permian of Nei Mongol, China

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Meek male and fighting female scorpions

May 28, 2014

Threatened female bark scorpions sting quicker than males, likely to compensate for reduced ability to flee the threat, according to results published May 28, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Bra ...

Recommended for you

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

7 hours ago

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

9 hours ago

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

10 hours ago

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.