Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Life and Death

Around here, if a scorpion doesn't get you, the ants will. This Arizona desert scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) I found on the sidewalk probably met its death by a crushing foot, but it did not take long for tiny Southern fire ants (Solenopsis xyloni) to swarm in for a feast.  At least the scorpions usually hunt solo. 

Also known as the Giant Hairy Scorpions for short stiff hairs along the sides of their legs, this species is reputed to be the largest in the U.S., measuring up to six inches long from the tip of their stinger to the small, sharp jaws or chelicerae. Add on all those legs plus the formidible claws, or pedipalps, and they are quite impressive. This one was about four inches long based on my calculations as sized up to my pen. (I need to add a small ruler to my pack for observations like this.) The ants are just a teensy fraction-maybe a sixteenth of an inch-or a couple of millimeters apiece if you prefer metric. Although scorpions can deliver a painful sting, they rarely cause a serious reaction in humans, and this one is actually one of the least toxic, despite its size. The dark back and pale legs also distinguish this species from the smaller, more dangerous and much more common bark scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda) that haunts the SW deserts. 
As gruesome as a scene like this may be, it is a reminder that all life thrives on death, humans included...unless you like your meat very fresh!

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