Every continent except Antarctica


Tropical rain forest, tropical monsoon forest, temperate forest, desert and semidesert, savanna, grasslands, and urban areas

Bizarre body

Scorpions strike terror in many people and have been both hated and admired since ancient times. This is probably due to their fearsome look, with pincers called pedipalps at one end and a stinger filled with venom at the other. Scorpions are not insects but arachnids, like spiders, and have eight legs and two main body regions, the prosoma, or cephalothorax, and the opisthosoma, or abdomen. The prosoma has two eyes on top and two to five lateral eyes along each side (as many as five pairs).

Even with all those eyes, scorpions can't see very well! Yet the sensitivity of their eyes is among the highest in all arthropods and dependent on the kinds of habitats in which they live. In general terms, however, their eyes mostly tell movement and light from dark.

Finding their way

The scorpion's four pairs of legs are attached to the prosoma as well. Scorpions find their way through sensory structures in their legs, by feeling along with brush-like structures called pectines attached to the underside of the abdomen, and through fine sensory hairs to detect vibrations. Male scorpions also use the pectines to find an available female, and newborn scorpions use them to recognize their mother. Though scorpions have no true “tail,” the appearance of one on the abdomen is called the metasoma, and it ends with a sharp stinger and venom glands.

Scorpions can easily be seen at night with an ultraviolet light due to a fluorescent material found in their hard outer covering, which gives them a "glow-in-the-dark" appearance.
Much like crickets, some scorpion species “sing” by rubbing their legs together. However, unlike crickets, it is thought that the song is used as a warning call instead of a call to attract a mate.
A scorpion's first sting is made up of different toxins than later stings. The first is usually strong enough to stun a vertebrate prey or predator; later stings are usually milder or used on invertebrates.
In high temperatures, scorpions may stilt, or raise their body off the ground, to cool off their underside.
One species, the devil scorpion from Brazil, reproduces by parthenogenesis, meaning the female doesn't need a male to fertilize her eggs.

The San Diego Zoo has maintained a large breeding group of the emperor scorpion in our Spineless Marvels exhibit since early 2003. In addition, we periodically display the flat rock scorpion and the desert hairy scorpion in the Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Hidden Jungle has been home to emperor scorpions for many years as well. This is the species frequently used in television programs and movies as they are quite large and scary to look at, though fairly docile and reluctant to sting, so they are easy for actors to work with. However, their large claws can deliver a painful pinch! We recommend keeping your hands off any scorpion species, just to be safe.

Many scorpion species are threatened by habitat loss and over-collection in the wild. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, develops multi-national conservation agreements in an effort to limit the potential for extinction of living species that are part of international trade. Special permits are now required to bring emperor scorpions Pandinus imperator into the United States and other participating countries; this helps control the numbers that are collected in the wild.