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Tailless Whip Scorpion

CONSERVATION STATUS
COMMON EXTINCT
Classification:

Other Common Names: Tanzanian whip scorpion, African whip spider, Giant tailless whip scorpion
Class: Arachnida
Order: Amblypigi
Genus & Species: Damon variegatus
Family: Phrynichidae

Range:

Kenya and Tanzania; patchy distribution from Congo through western Tanzania and Zimbabwe, to South Africa and Namibia, although distribution is patchy.

Habitat:

Rainforest, savanna, caves, and even semi deserts in tropical and subtropical Africa.

Activity:

Nocturnal.

Size:

Up to 8 inches across with legs extended.  Body size is 1 to 2 inches.

Longevity:

2 to 3 years.

Diet:

Insects such as crickets, locusts, termites, and cockroaches as well as worms and small vertebrates.

Description:

The tailless whip scorpion has a spider-like shape with a flattened body, six segmented walking legs, two long front legs, and no tail.  The common names “whip scorpion” and “whip spider” refer to the whip-like movements of the front legs.  The coloring of D. variegatus is mottled brown, black or cream.  Tailless whip scorpions have a pair of pincher-like appendages, or “pedipalps”, near the mouth.  The pedipalps are used to grasp prey and bring it into the body to be sliced by shearing mouthparts.  They also use their pincers to bring water to their mouths for drinking.

Reproduction:

Courtship usually occurs during the rainy season.  The male guides the female to a sperm packet that he has deposited.  She inserts the packet into her reproductive opening.  6 to 60 eggs (the average is 36) are carried in a sac attached to the underside of her abdomen.  The embryos are nourished by the mother through a connection with her body.  After hatching, the young are usually white in color.  They are carried on the mother’s back for a several days before they molt and disperse.  Tailless whip scorpions take about two years to reach maturity.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

Damon variegates is neither a spider nor a scorpion, although it belongs to Class Arachnida which includes spiders, mites, ticks, daddy longlegs, scorpions, and related animals.  Like other arachnids, they lack antennae, have two body parts, and have eight segmented legs.  Tailless whip scorpions have only six legs for walking, because their first pair of legs is modified into sense organs.   They walk sideways, using their long front legs to detect vibrations in order to avoid obstacles and to locate prey.

D. variegates spends its days hiding in cracks or crevices, under stones, under peeling bark, in dead wood, or in the holes of trees.  At night it emerges to hunt for insects or small vertebrates.  Tailless whip scorpions are extremely fast and agile.  They rely on camouflage coloring and speed to elude predators.  Their flattened bodies allow them to scurry into narrow places under rocks or bark when they are disturbed.  They are hardy animals that can survive long periods without food or water.

Conservation:

Although not listed as Endangered by IUCN, tailless whip scorpions play an important role in the balance of nature.

Comments:

In the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Professor Moody suggests that one bite from a tailless whip scorpion could kill.  Although scary looking, the truth is that tailless whip scorpions have no venom and are harmless to humans.  They can pinch in defense, but they prefer to run away when threatened and to use their pincers for capturing prey.