Do Dead Scorpions Glow?


Scorpions are arthropods( and so scientifically not insects), they have eight legs, two pedipalps, and a tail with a venom-injecting barb. Scorpions are found all across the world. There are over 2,000 different species found on six of the seven continents. They prey on insects, arthropods, and in some cases small vertebrates. 

Anyways, back to our actual question, Do Dead Scorpions Glow? A quick answer is: Yes! Surprisingly they can glow even when they’re dead.

Why Scorpions Aren’t Insects?

Scorpions belong to a group of animals called “arachnids”.  Spiders, mites, and ticks also belong to the same family.  Arachnids are creatures with two body segments, eight legs, no wings or antennae, and are not able to chew. Many people think that scorpions are insects but they are mistaken since insects have six legs and three main body parts.  Most insects have wings. So, scorpions are not insects they are Arachnids

The table above explains differences between an arachnids and insects in a very detailed and comprehensive way. So now you know that Scorpions aren’t insects and why is it so. We’ll be moving on with the mystery of glow in scropions.

Why Do Scorpions Glow In Dark?

What scientists do know is that something in the scorpions’ exoskeletons causes them to glow. Scorpions, along with other arthropods and insects, have an outer layer called a “cuticle.” Unlike the cuticles on your fingers, which are made of hard or dead skin, the cuticle on a scorpion is a part of its exoskeleton. This cuticle has a thin section called the “hyaline layer.” The hyaline layer is what reacts to ultraviolet (UV) light, such as black light or moonlight, and causes the scorpion’s body to glow.

Reason Behind Scorpion’s Glow

Scorpions, one of the first terrestrial animals, have evolved 400 million years ago when the oxygen level was much lower and thus the UV protection provided by ozone was much lower. Back then, scorpions did not have to be nocturnal and they needed strong UV protection also because plants of that era were limited in size and did not provide real shade. Their ancient UV protection layer that shielded them 400 million years ago is actually what makes scorpions glow today!

What Causes Scorpions To Glow?

We do know how they fluoresce, and that is due to the presence of beta-carboline in their exoskeleton. Beta carboline will fluoresce when exposed to UV light, causing the scorpion to glow an eerie greenish-blue glow.

What is Beta-carboline?

β-Carboline alkaloids are widespread in plants and animals and frequently act as GABAA inverse agonists. β-Carboline belongs to the group of indole alkaloids and consists of a pyridine ring that is fused to an indole skeleton.

As a result of the presence of β-carbolines in the cuticle of scorpions, their skin is known to fluoresce when exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light such as that produced by a blacklight.

Why do scorpions have carboline in their exoskeletons? 

Carboline chemicals are found in many animal cells, not just scorpions, and are thought to be sunscreens that protect epidermal cells by reflecting or scattering UV radiation.

Because scorpions appeared over 400 million years ago, research suggests that the oxygen levels were lower than, which means that UV light from the sun was pretty intense. It makes pretty good sense that these animals would be exposed to powerful UV radiation and would need to have or to develop some sort of protection, which could explain the presence of the carbolines.

Do All Scorpions Glow?

Yes! Every kind of scorpion regardless of shape, size, or age glow except baby scorpions. And Yes! even the dead ones glow in dark. As all scorpions have the same anatomy and so all scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light, such as an electric blacklight or natural moonlight. The blue-green glow comes from a substance ( beta-carboline, as discussed above) found in the hyaline layer, a very thin but super tough coating in a part of the scorpion’s exoskeleton called the cuticle.

Why Do Scorpions Need To Glow?

One of the most interesting hypotheses is that the scorpion uses its exoskeleton as a giant eye. California State University arachnologist Carl Kloock has suggested that the scorpions use their exoskeletons to detect UV light, so that they know when it’s night and time to eat.

Kloock is still testing his theory but has noticed that scorpions who aren’t really hungry won’t come out to hunt on nights when there’s a lot of moonlight. If they do need to eat, however, they’ll come out and hunt regardless of how bright the night is.

Some of the other hypotheses as to why scorpions are fluorescent under UV light are pretty cool, too. Take a look.

  • The fluorescence works as a kind of sunblock and protects the scorpions.
  • Their bright blue-green glow confuses prey and makes it easier to catch.
  • A glowing exoskeleton makes it easier for scorpions to recognize one another.
  • The fluorescence makes their bodies more sensitive to light, so it’s easier to find a shady hiding spot.

The truth is, we just don’t know why scorpions glow under a black light. 

Do Fossils Of Scorpions Glow Too?

Fossil of a scorpion

Extinct scorpions most likely did, but their fossils most likely won’t.

Fossils are unlikely to glow because the cuticle has been mineralized and the glowing compounds quickly lost. However, by the presence of this ‘hyaline’ layer of the exoskeleton, we can say that ancient scorpions were all able to fluoresce.

Some fossils do glow when they are exposed to UV light as the hyaline layer is extremely long-lasting but scorpions most probably won’t glow in dark as glowing chemicals in its body would most probably be exhausted.

Do Baby Scorpions Glow?

Baby Scorpions DO NOT glow under a black light!

Scorpion Babies under black light on mother scorpion’s back. Scorpions glow due to a protein found in their exoskeleton. Apparently, this protein is not found in the baby scorpions. It may take a few more molts before this protein appears.

Scientists And Scorpions’Glow

This fluorescence is utilized for scorpion studies, surveys, and population studies. Biologists have known about this for years and often conduct their studies at night to take advantage of this unique characteristic.

Conclusion

So do dead scorpions glow in dark? Yes they can, it actually depends on the chemical in their bodies that are causing them to glow in dark as soon as that chemical production is stopped they probably won’t glow anymore. But when they’re exposed to UV light or backlight they probably will as even some fossilized scorpions show some glow underexposure to ultraviolet light.

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