The Basics of Scorpion Anatomy

Emperor Scorpion, Pandinus imperator (Scorpionidae), from Africa.

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The scorpion is an eight-legged carnivorous arthropod, scorpions are members of the class Arachnida and are closely related to spiders, mites, and ticks. Scorpions are sometimes referred to as ancient animals as scorpions have been on Earth for over 400 million years, meaning that scorpions already existed on Earth when the dinosaurs arrived.

Scorpions are found in the southern hemisphere in deserts and jungle habitats alike. They also live in Brazilian forests, British Columbia, North Carolina, and even the Himalayas. These hardy, adaptable arthropods have been around for hundreds of millions of years. There are almost 2,000 scorpion species, but only 30 or 40 have strong enough poison to kill a person.

Scorpions are nocturnal animals meaning that they spend the day under rocks and in crevices and then come out to hunt in the safety of darkness. Scorpions are carnivorous animals and paralyze their prey using the venomous sting on the end of their tail so that the scorpion can eat it. Scorpions also have two large claws or pincers which are located at the front of the body of the scorpion. The claws of the scorpion allow the scorpion to hold onto prey to both sting and eat it effectively.

Scorpions are burrowing animals and must have soil to survive. They typically eat insects, but their diet can be extremely variable—another key to their survival in so many harsh locales.

When food is scarce, the scorpion has an amazing ability to slow its metabolism to as little as one-third the typical rate for arthropods. This technique enables some species to use little oxygen and live on as little as a single insect per year. Even with lowered metabolism, the scorpion can spring quickly to the hunt when the opportunity presents itself.

The Body Parts of a Scorpion

The telson and pedipalps are the parts of the scorpion anatomy owners should be most aware of, as these comprise the main weapons of a scorpion. 

  • Telson: this piece is a specially modified segment at the tip of the "tail" that contains the venom gland (i.e., the "stinger").
  • Pedipalps: The second pair of appendages on an arachnid, which arises near the mouthparts and has specialized hunting, defensive, reproductive, or sensory functions. In scorpions, these are the appendages that carry the chelae, or "claws."

Other Terms

Here are some other terms regarding scorpion anatomy:

  • Prosoma: The anterior portion of the scorpion's body, including the head, pedipalps, and legs (sometimes also called cephalothorax).
  • Opisthosoma: The body or abdomen portion of the scorpion, further divided into mesosoma and metasoma ("tail").
  • Chela: This claw-like structure found on the pedipalp of a scorpion.
  • Chelicerae: The first set of paired appendages on an arachnid, which is highly specialized and used for feeding and sometimes grooming.