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What are scorpions?

Why study scorpions?
Life History
Dwindling Expertise

Courtship & Mating

There is an abundance of literature on scorpion courtship and mating, and these topics were extensively reviewed by Polis & Sissom (1990).  What follows is a brief synopsis of the mating process. 

Seasonal patterns of mating for most scorpion species are rather poorly known.  Some species appear to exhibit fairly extended mating periods; for example, Centruroides vittatus and Smeringurus mesaensis have been observed mating throughout the warmer months of the year.  Other species are known to have shorter mating periods ranging from two weeks to three months in mid- to late-summer (Polis & Sissom 1990). It seems to be a general rule, however, that male scorpions (even burrowing species that tend to be sedentary during other parts of the year) become vagrant during the mating period in order to search for females.  There is recent evidence that the male locates the female by encountering and following pheromones (attractant substances) that she releases at the appropriate times of the year (Melville, et al. 2003).  The male senses the female's pheromones with his pectines.

Mating in scorpions involves a highly ritualized series of behaviors that comprise the “promenade-a-deux”, or courtship dance.  Upon contacting the female, the male will grasp her pedipalps with his own and begin leading her on the “dance”.  If she resists, he attempts to appease her with a “kiss”; this behavior consists of touching and kneading the female’s chelicerae.  Resistance by the female takes several forms:  she may attempt to sting him, push him away with her stinger tucked in, or simply refuse to dance.  In some species, the male stings the female during the initial stages of courtship, slowly and deliberately inserting his aculeus into a soft area of her body, leaving it in for as long as 10 minutes (Francke, 1979)!  It is not known if he is actually injecting her with venom or some other chemical substance.  Almost invariably, however, her response is a passive one.

Because sperm transfer is not direct, the pair does not copulate.  The male’s ultimate goal is to locate a suitable place to deposit a spermatophore, a structure carrying the sperm packet, that is extruded from his body and glued to some hard surface.  If he is successful, he will pull her over the spermatophore so that she can pick up the sperm packet in her genital pore.  After this, the male releases his grip and the two (usually) go their separate ways.  On occasion, however, the male ends up being the victim of cannibalism, supplying his mate with her first meal to nourish his unborn offspring.

Literature Cited:

Melville, J. M., S. K. Tallarovic, & P. H. Brownell.  2003. Evidence of Mate Trailing in the Giant Hairy Desert Scorpion, Hadrurus arizonensis (Scorpionida, Iuridae). Journal of Insect Behavior, Vol. 16: 97-115.

Francke, O. F.  1979.  Observations on the reproductive biology and life history of Megacormus gertschi Diaz (Scorpiones: Chactidae: Megacorminae).  Journal of Arachnology, 7: 223-230.

Polis, G. A.  and W. D. Sissom.  1990.  Life History.  In G. A. Polis (Ed.), The Biology of Scorpions.  Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 161-223.



The material included in this site is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0413453.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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