Acid spraying nightmares! Well, no, not really. The whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions are like something out of a sci-fi movie. In fact, many sci-fi aliens have been modeled after them. Like most arachnids they are carnivorous. What do they eat? Anything smaller than they are!
Whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions are not scorpions and they have no venom. Other common names are whip spiders and vinegaroons. They are arachnids; they have 8 legs and two main body parts. They are unusual among arachnids in that they only walk on 6 legs. Arachnids do not have antennae. In both groups, the front pair of legs have evolved to long “whip” like appendages that they use just like antennae. Hence the name “whip.”
While whip scorpions and tailless whip scorpions look similar, they are related only by both being arachnids. The whip scorpion (aka vinegaroon) belong to an order known as Uropygi (Greek for “tail rump”). The most common of the vinegaroons is the Thelyphonida (Greek for “murderous female” – I don’t make up the names). Mostly a tropical arachnid, here in the United States, we have the giant vinegaroon, which is found in arid regions.
The vinegaroons get their name because of a gland on the end of their tail or Flagellum. This gland can secrete a solution of 80% acetic acid. Vinegar is only 3-5% acetic acid. When disturbed they can spray it up to two feet with fairly decent accuracy, leaving the air and some unfortunate soul reeking of vinegar.
Tailless whip scorpions are in the order called Amblypygi, (Greek for “blunt rump”). This refers to their lack of flagellum (tail). Amblypygids are harmless to humans. They have no silk or venom glands. Occasionally, when annoyed they can grab a finger with their raptorial pedipalps. Like the vinegaroons, they have extremely elongated front legs that act as sensory organs.
Amblypygids are an ancient order with fossilized specimens dating back to the Carboniferous period. They have a flat, crab-like, posture, and are truly alien in appearance. Ever see the movie Lost in Space? You may recognize the metallic alien monsters, Amblypygids.
So, that’s the technical stuff. Want to hold one? Come to the May 11th show at Discovery World