A Different Kind Of Giant
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You will recall that a few posts back, I featured a Giant Swallowtail, a very large butterfly species that revisited our back yard after an absence of two years. Tonight’s post is about a different kind of giant, one that is far less pretty, but nevertheless fascinating.
I wanted to show our guest of the past few days, Claude Wegscheider, as much southern Arizona wildlife as possible so, this past Thursday night I took him to Sabino Canyon to look for nocturnal creatures. My primary objective was to find some Tarantulas for Claude to photograph. We saw a couple, but they were wary creatures and didn’t allow us to take their picture. I brought along a black light along with the usual flashlight and, as we walked, I shined the black light on the margins of the roadway and trails. My purpose was to spot scorpions. Scorpions all contain a substance in their outer shells that fluoresces in black light and they show up a pale and glowing green on a dark night.
We were without success for most of the walk until, suddenly, I saw something moving by the trailside. It was a scorpion, but much bigger than most that I’ve seen. It took just a second to identify it. It was a Giant Hairy Scorpion, the largest scorpion living in the Arizona desert and in the United States.
There are three scorpion species living in southern Arizona: the Bark Scorpion, the Striped-tailed Scorpion, and the Giant Hairy Scorpion. The first two species are diminutive, rarely exceeding two or three inches from the tips of their pincers to the ends of their stingers. By contrast, the Giant Hairy Scorpion is a monster, measuring about six inches from pincers to stinger.
A Giant Hairy Scorpion is formidable looking, resembling a small land-living lobster. But, as scorpions go, it is a pussycat. A Giant Hairy’s sting is about as potent as a bee sting. This species is highly reclusive and almost never seen by humans. It spends daylight hours living in its burrow which can be as much as eight feet in length. At night it emerges to hunt insects, other scorpions, and sometimes, mice. It avoids contact with humans. When Claude and I shined our lights on this scorpion it became almost frantic in its efforts to retreat.
Almost no one ever gets stung by this scorpion behemoth but its size gives it a terrible reputation.
The really nasty scorpion in our community is the much tinier Bark Scorpion, pictured below. That little monster’s sting is incredibly potent and it has caused human fatalities on very rare occasions. But, these little monsters are also reclusive and nocturnal. I’ve only encountered a few of them in more than three years’ living in the desert.
Scorpions provoke disgust or fear in lots of people but they are truly fascinating creatures. They are among the oldest of complex terrestrial life forms, true living fossils. The first scorpions emerged from the sea about 350 – 400 million years ago, 200 million years before the dinosaurs ever existed. These creatures are almost indescribably tough. They have survived mass extinction events more than once and they presently inhabit every continent except Antarctica. They are true winners of the evolution wars, and they deserve our respect.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L macro lens. The first two photos were taken at ISO 125 and assisted by a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, f18 @ 1/160. The third photo was taken in available light, ISO 200, f11 @ 1/200.