Ben-Gurion University of the Negev scientists have discovered that scorpions create a platform in their burrows where they warm up before the evening hunt.
As ectothermic animals, scorpions rely on energy from the environment to regulate their internal temperature. The researchers believe that this platform provides a safe, warm spot for the scorpions to increase their body temperature before they leave their hiding places to forage at night.
After trapping the wild large-clawed scorpions (Scorpio Maurus Palmatus) in Israel's Negev desert the researchers filled their burrows with molten aluminum to make replica casts. Once solidified, they were unearthed and analyzed by a 3-D laser scanner and software.
The researchers found that the burrows followed a very sophisticated design, beginning with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattened out a few centimeters below the surface into a horizontal platform. The burrows then turn sharply downwards, descending further below ground to form a dead-end chamber. This cool, humid chamber, where evaporation water loss is minimal, provides a refuge for the scorpions to rest during the heat of the day.
The design was common to all the scorpion burrows studied, which suggests that burrow building in scorpions has evolved by natural selection to meet the animals' physiological needs.
"Very little is known about burrow environments," says Dr. Amanda Adams who presented the study at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Manchester, United Kingdom on July 3, 2014. She is a post-doctoral research fellow in the Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology at BGU's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research. Her co-researcher and advisor for the study is Prof. Berry Pinshow.
"We plan to expand our studies to more scorpion species around the world to test how burrow structure is shaped to be part of the burrow builder's extended physiology. Understanding the relationship between environmental conditions and burrow structures, meanwhile, could help to predict how burrow-builders will respond to climate change.
Scorpions are predatory arachnids, found on all continents except Antarctica. They occupy a range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, mountains and deserts. Their varied diets include arthropods, lizards and even small rodents.
Materials provided by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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