Scorpions (Scorpiones) Spanish name: Escorpión
About The Scorpion
Scorpions as a group live in a variety of habitats, but most species are adapted to a specific one. Some live in trees, others on the ground beneath leaves; certain species survive well in desert conditions, and others require humid forest. In Costa Rica they can often be found in damp, shaded areas within forest, cave, and human dwelling spaces.
From the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America, different kinds of scorpions extend down into South America. In Costa Rica they can be found in many parts of the country and even on Cocos Island.
Monteverde National Park, Children’s Eternal Rainforest, La Amistad International Park, Chirripó National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, and Cocos Island.
The scorpions in Costa Rica have the familiar figure of scorpions in other parts of the world. This arachnid has eight legs, plus large pinchers in front called pedipalps which move like lobster claws. Scorpions also have chelicerae, a set of thicker jaws around the mouth. The body ends with a long segmented tail that terminates in a stinger.
Biology and Natural History
Scorpions are feared in many regions for having a painful and dangerous sting. In Central America alone, there are over 400 species of scorpions. Scorpions with deadly poison do exist in other places, but not in Costa Rica. While the sting site may hurt or swell for a short time, none of the 14 species found here are dangerous.
They will kill each other, however, so mating is a delicate process. A male will approach a female and the two will lock pedipalps or chelicerae then move back and forth in a sort of dance until they can make an exchange. The male releases a sperm packet onto the ground, then steps backward until the female moves over this packet and her body picks it up. Then the two separate. When she gives birth, the mother will keep her larval young on her back until they molt and look like small scorpions. After a series of molts over 1 to 3 years, they are mature adults.
Scorpions are predacious. They hunt insects and spiders, and will eat other scorpions as well. The species that are adapted to desert terrain can survive for months without water. Those accustomed to a humid forest habitat can die of dehydration after just a few days.
Scorpions may vary in size; in Costa Rica some species are rather small, reaching only 6 to 7 cm, head to tail.
Hogue, Charles L. Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press: Berkely and Los Angeles, 1993.
Kricher, John. A Neotropical Companion: an introduction to the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the New World tropics. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1997.
-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer