For all their ferocious appearance, whip tail scorpions, or whipscorpions, are not venomous and are not, actually, even scorpions. Whipscorpion is a common name for the vinegaroon, scientific name Mastigoproctus giganteus. These fascinating arachnids sometimes are kept as pets because of their nonvenomous nature. They can, however, pinch with their pincers. Whether you call them whip tail scorpions, whipscorpions, or vinegaroons, after you get over your first fright, these small creatures can be fascinating.
Anatomy and Physical Adaptations
Vinegaroons range anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 inches long after they reach adulthood. Their bodies are either black or a variation of brown, and their long, thin front legs function as antennae. They have six more legs, which they use for walking. Their pincers are part of their mouth parts. They get their whip tail or whipscorpion name from their long, thin whip-like tail. Unlike real scorpions, however, there is no stinger in the vinegaroon's tail. They do emit a fine, vinegary-smelling mist from their tail end as a defense mechanism, thus gaining them their common name "vinegaroon."
Vinegaroons prefer tropical and subtropical climates, but they also have adapted to climates all over the world. Although they are found more commonly in hot, dry desert areas, they also can be found in moist, leafy forests, grasslands, pine forests and mountains.
Vinegaroons like to hide under leaves and woodpiles, or in cluttered storage rooms. Provide pet vinegaroons something to hide under, like a piece of lightweight bark. Don't put heavy objects in the container with them because they may try to burrow under them and can possibly be crushed.
Feeding and Behavior
Vinegaroons don't have good vision, so they depend on vibrations to alert them to prey. They live solitary, nocturnal lives, coming out at night to forage and burrowing during the day under available covering, such as sand, discarded tree bark, or in between stacked boxes. Their main prey consists of small insects, but adults also will eat larger insects. Crickets make a good meal for vinegaroons. The largest species members also have been known to eat small vertebrates.
After mating, female vinegaroons carry the egg sac of the forming offspring. After they are born, these offspring then are transferred to her back, where she carries them until they are ready to strike out on their own. Vinegaroons share this behavior with scorpions.
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