Are Glowing Scorpions Giant Eyes?

  • December 31, 2011
  • Science
  • Comments Off on Are Glowing Scorpions Giant Eyes?

Are Glowing Scorpions Giant Eyes?

Several news stories made the round recently about a new discovery that scorpions may in fact be one giant eye, seeing light like nobody else can. It’s an amazing statement, and if true, would be unique amongst other animals and insects. The facts are slightly less dramatic than that, but still very interesting, if proven true, and could shed new light on the behavior of these little criters, thanks to some intense studies done recently by scientists on the glowing scorpions.

Published in “Animal Behavior”, the scientists studied the behavior and anatomy of many types of scorpions, and made an interesting hypothesis where their exoskeleton would act as a giant light receptor. Alright many scorpions have a lot of eyes, up to 12 or more, but this one covers the whole body. It’s not an eye per se, but instead of warning signal, a way to use fluorescence to react to light and shadows. This could be easier shown by using ultraviolet light on the scorpions. The scientists found out that regardless of the criter’s natural color, whether it’s black or translucent, their whole body would turn glowing when submitted to that type of light. There’s many hypothesises that can be drawn from this, such as a mating response or a natural sunscreen left over from before they were nocturnal creatures.

Still, the most likely explanation according to the biologists at the University of Oklahoma, is that this may be an alarm system for the scorpion, where that giant detector embedded in their exoskeleton would keep warning them when they aren’t in cover. It would force them to always seek shelter. In fact, from studying bones from 430 millions years ago, it seems even the ancestors of the modern scorpions had this characteristic as well. To confirm their theory, one researcher bleached the fluorescent pigments from scorpions and showed that they could no longer find shelter. Other scientists covered the scorpion eyes, and found that they still reacted to the ultraviolet light shined onto them. It’s a fairly unique behavior, and it’s still unknown how exactly their bodies are processing this light, but the studies will continue. Scorpions may have to dedicate their time to science for a while longer.

Overall, this science doesn’t have much immediate uses, and the scorpions certainly can’t see actual objects from their whole body, but this interesting behavior may lead to understanding how animals work more closely, and help us discover new uses for simple things like fluorescent material. Study results will need to be confirmed by others, but so far are proving to be quite interesting to the world media.

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