The Biology of Scorpions
by Gary Polis
Scorpions are fascinating animals. Unfortunately, the interest shown by most people stems from the scorpion’ s reputation as a deadly scourge, a killer of man and his animals. Indeed, there are about 25 species whose venom is capable of causing human deathe in some cases within seven hours. However, almost 1,500 other species are no more than efficient predators of insects and other small animals-the sting of these scorpions is usually far less painful than that of a honeybee.
Scientists interested in scorpions are captivated by their great antiquity and the amazing suite of biochemical, physiological, behavioral, and ecological adaptations that have combined to ensure their continued success over the past 450 million years. Though these “living but sophisticated fossils” have changed little in their morphology since their first appearance, their adaptations nevertheless range from superbly efficient behavioral repertoires to the maternal care of offspring, ultrasensitive tactile and visual fields, and complex venoms that are a precise mixture of different toxins, each with its own action. Scorpions thus represent a model system for research ranging from biochemistry to