Looking to learn about the tailless whip scorpion? You're in the right place.
These guys don't look too cuddly. In fact, they kind of look like something from your nightmares. But there is more to whip scorpions than meets the eye, so let's learn about these not-so-scary animals!
Tailless Whip Scorpion Guide
With pincers, mandibles and spindly appendages that can grow almost two feet long, tailless whip scorpions seem like the last thing that you would want to see in the dark.
Before you judge a book by its cover, however, you should know that there are some surprising things to learn about tailless whip scorpions.
For example, they're almost entirely harmless to humans. They make great pets. They court each other with gentle caresses.
Don't let pictures of the tailless whip scorpion scare you away. These fascinating creatures deserve a second look, so here's just a bit of trivia about them!
1. What does the tailless whip scorpion look like?
The tailless whip scorpion looks like a cross between a spider, a scorpion, and a crab. It has a broad, flat body with a segmented abdomen and a series of flexible appendages that sweep the ground as it moves.
Eight legs and two pincers jut out from both sides of the body and bend in a loose L-shape. Eight eyes glitter from the top and sides of the head.
As for things like color and size, different species of tailless whip scorpions will vary:
- Phrynus marginemaculatus is a solid black with thick, dagger-like pincers.
- Acanthophrynus coronatus has a brown or tan body with hairy legs that look almost fuzzy.
- Charon grayi is known as the “giant whip spider” because its front legs can reach up to 27 inches long. This is more than three times the length of its body!
- Damon diadema is one of the few tailless whip scorpions with patterned markings. Its legs and abdomen are striped, and its colors can range from a light brown to a black-blue.
2. How many species does the tailless whip scorpion have?
There are more than 155 species of tailless whip scorpion. There are even extinct species that have been discovered through fossilized remains!
They're believed to be more than 358 million years old, so tailless whip scorpions have been around for a while.
3. How big is a tailless whip scorpion?
The size of a tailless whip scorpion will depend on its species. Some of them are tiny things with leg spans that only reach 2 – 3 inches long; others are massive creatures with leg spans that stretch 25 – 27 inches long.
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4. Do tailless whip scorpions belong to the spider or scorpion family?
Despite being called both “whip spiders” and “whip scorpions,” tailless whip scorpions don't belong to either family. They're something known as arthropods.
Arthropods are invertebrates with segmented bodies, jointed limbs, and hard exoskeletons, and their order includes everything from insects to crustaceans.
Why are tailless whip scorpions called spiders and scorpions when they have nothing to do with them? Well, for starters, they share a lot of physical characteristics with these species. It's easy for people to mistake them for each other.
Another reason for the confusion is the fact that tailless whip scorpions are classified as arachnids.
Despite what you may have heard, not all arachnids are spiders! Arachnids include mites, ticks, scorpions, spiders, daddy longlegs and tailless whip scorpions.
5. How many legs does the tailless whip scorpion have?
Tailless whip scorpions have eight legs, but they only walk on six. The front pair is a set of long, spindly feelers that they use to sweep the ground in front of them as they move.
With the help of stubby little hairs on the antenniform legs, they can see, hear, feel and taste what's on the path ahead.
6. Why does it look like the tailless whip scorpion has 10 legs?
In addition to their four pairs of “regular” legs, tailless whip scorpions have a pair of pincers called pedipalps.
These pincers are often mistaken for an extra set of legs, especially since they're shorter than the feelers that tailless whip scorpions use for environmental detection.
The pincers aren't meant for walking, however. They're a hunting tool that tailless whip scorpions use to grab and hold their prey while they eat them.
They even have an extra set of bristles on their pincers that function like hands or claws:
As you can see here, the tailless whip scorpion uses both pincers at once in a swift grabbing motion. Its pincers even open and close like a human curling their fingers into a fist.
Notice the way that it uses its feeler legs to scope out the situation before striking, too.
Note: please do not antagonize animals like this. I'm only including this video so you can see what the whip scorpion looks like. Though it won't kill it, this is not good for the animal as it causes a lot of stress.
7. How did the tailless whip scorpion get its name?
Whip spiders and whip scorpions both get their name from their “whipping” appendages.
In most whip scorpions, the whipping usually comes from the tail; in tailless whip scorpions, it comes from the movements of their antenniform legs.
8. What is the tailless whip scorpions Latin name?
The scientific name of the tailless whip scorpion is Amblypygi. This translates to “blunt tail” or “blunt bottom” and refers to its distinct lack of a tail.
9. Is there sexual dimorphism in tailless whip scorpions?
We don't know. Sexual dimorphism is when one gender of the species has different physical characteristics than the other.
Males might be bigger than females, for example, or they might have horns or wings that the females don't.
There are so many species of tailless whip scorpion that it's hard to say if they experience sexual dimorphism. Only one real study has been done on it, and the results were inconclusive:
- Phrynus exsul and Charinus insularis have no difference in male and female sizes.
- Charon grayi and Euphrynichus amanica have major differences in pedipalp size between males and females. The male pedipalps were twice as big.
Since tailless whip scorpions have diverse, wide-ranging species that date back millions of years, it's possible that different species have adapted to different environments.
10. Are tailless whip scorpions nocturnal?
Yes. Since they operate by touch more than sight, tailless whip scorpions aren't bothered by the darkness. They're most active during nocturnal hours.
11. How often do tailless whip scorpions molt?
Tailless whip scorpions will molt several times in their life. This is a dramatic process where they shed their old exoskeletons and grow new ones.
They'll even change colors while they're molting; they'll look blue, green or pure white.
The first molting happens just a few weeks after birth when they transform from embryonic babies into more juvenile nymphs.
They'll molt several more times during their younger stages of life, and they'll keep molting at a slower pace throughout adulthood.
This is very different from other arachnids that only molt when they're juveniles and stop when they're adults. Tailless whip scorpions molt their entire lives.
12. How do tailless whip scorpions move?
Tailless whip scorpions have a sideways walk that's a bit like a crab. They're capable of moving forward and backward, especially when hunting, but the sideways walk is the most common.
They creep slowly while using their feelers to get feedback on the world around them.
13. Are tailless whip scorpions aggressive?
Despite their frightening appearance, tailless whip scorpions aren't an aggressive species. They aren't hostile or defensive, and they can co-exist with one another in the wild.
They also make docile pets. You can let a tailless whip scorpion crawl all over your face without fear that it will hurt you!
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14. Do tailless whip scorpions bite?
Tailless whip scorpions don't bite. They don't even chew.
After skewering their victims with their pincers, they use their mandibles to grind and liquefy them before swallowing the resulting mess. It's not dissimilar to chewing, but it's not really the same thing.
15. Can a tailless whip scorpion hurt you?
This is one of the most surprising tailless whip scorpion facts.
Even though they're armed to the teeth with pincers, bristles, and mandibles, tailless whip scorpions aren't dangerous to humans.
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Let's take stock:
- They don't bite.
- They aren't poisonous or venomous.
- They don't have any claws, fangs or stingers.
The only way that a tailless whip scorpion might hurt you is if they get you with their pincers, but this won't be more than a small prick. You'll survive.
16. How long do tailless whip scorpions live?
Tailless whip scorpions can survive for anywhere from 5 – 15 years in captivity.
Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but it's probably less than their pampered cousins living in aquariums!
17. What eats a tailless whip scorpion?
Tailless whip scorpions are vulnerable to bats, lizards, reptiles and other insect-eaters.
Their greatest period of risk is when they're young; they haven't developed their toughest exoskeletons yet, and their colors are usually brighter than adults and more easily seen in the darkness.
18. How do tailless whip scorpions reproduce?
Here's another reason why you shouldn't judge tailless whip scorpions by their scary appearance: they have surprisingly gentle habits for mating and child-rearing.
It starts with males and females completing a courtship ritual. They'll feel each other out with their antenniform legs, stroke each other's bodies and perform little “dances” together. They don't rush the courtship process; it can take hours for both parties to be ready for the next step.
When it's time to breed, the male will lay spermatophores on the ground and guide the female to pick them up. Physical contact isn't actually needed for copulation.
After securing the sperm, the female will produce eggs that she'll carry on her back until hatching time.
19. What are baby tailless whip scorpions like?
Newborn tailless whip scorpions are completely helpless. They're small embryonic creatures that are white in color, and they continue to cling to their mother's back for several weeks after hatching.
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They only drop off when it's time to molt into their second, more independent form.
20. Is the tailless whip scorpion endangered?
Tailless whip scorpions aren't endangered on the whole, but some species are at risk more than others.
For example, the IUCN has the Indian Ocean whip spider (Phrynichus scaber) listed as “vulnerable.” There are also several species that have already gone extinct, including the Paracharontidae graeophonus and the Phrynidae britopygus.
21. Do tailless whip scorpions eat roaches?
Yes. Tailless whip scorpions will gladly handle your cockroach problem for you!
22. What do tailless whip scorpions eat?
Tailless whip scorpions are mostly insectivores. They like flies, crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers and wax worms. Larger species will sometimes take down a small frog or lizard.
23. How do tailless whip scorpions hunt?
As nocturnal animals, tailless whip scorpions do all of their hunting at night. They're sit-and-wait predators that lurk in the darkness and allow their unsuspecting victims to come to them.
They'll sometimes hide under leaves or rocks to give themselves an even greater advantage.
Once their prey is within striking distance, the tailless whip scorpion has a few different methods of attack. One is a quick and decisive lunge that basically skewers the insect on their pincers before the insect has a chance to react.
Another tactic is to slowly feel around the insect with their antenniform legs in a non-threatening way before they switch gears and grab it.
It's rare for an insect to escape the clutches of a tailless whip scorpion once they've been turned into a shish kabob. If they don't die right away, they die once the tailless whip scorpion starts using their mandibles to crush them into goo.
24. Do tailless whip scorpions carry disease?
Tailless whip scorpions carry no known diseases. Since there are so many species, it's impossible to say that they're disease-free, but nothing has been discovered yet.
25. Are tailless whip scorpions poisonous or venomous?
No. Tailless whip scorpions are completely lacking in venom glands. They can't inject anything into anyone; they can't even properly bite or sting.
They are capable of secreting a fluid from their mandibles to help them liquefy their prey, but it's harmless to humans.
26. Where does the tailless whip scorpion live?
Tailless whip scorpions are found all over the world. Different populations are native to Asia, Australia, Europe and both North and South America.
As long as they have a humid environment with plenty of hiding spots, they'll thrive.
27. What is the habitat of the tailless whip scorpion?
The habitat of the tailless whip scorpion depends on its species. While all of them prefer dark, secluded places where they aren't vulnerable to predators, they can differ on the specifics of where they lurk:
- Phrynus marginemaculatus lives under the leaves and rocks of the jungles of South America.
- Damon diadema hides under logs in Africa.
- Phrynus longipes lives in the caves of the Caribbean.
- Charon grayi also lives in caves, but they're native to Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
28. Can tailless whip scorpions live together?
Tailless whip scorpions are solitary creatures by nature, but they do live together in densely-populated areas like caves. They'll hunt around each other instead of engaging in territorial disputes.
The one exception to this harmony is when they have dominance battles. Dominance battles can be surprisingly ferocious, and the victor might even decide to kill and eat the other!
It starts with two members of the species feeling each other out with their antenniform legs. Often times, one party will recognize the size or strength of the other and disengage without challenging them.
If they can't decide which one of them is bigger or tougher, however, the tailless whip scorpions will start to escalate their aggression. Their touches will turn into pinches, and they'll begin striking and grappling each other in earnest.
These fights usually end in death. Occasionally, they'll also end in cannibalism. The victor will munch on their foe's body before moving right along.
29. Are tailless whip scorpions good pets?
Tailless whip scorpions make great pets. They're freaky enough to impress all of your friends, but they're docile enough that you can take them out of their tank whenever you want.
They're also easy to feed and even breed; they don't require a lot of specialized care.
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The only thing that you have to watch out for is potential dominance battles if you put multiple tailless whip scorpions in the same tank. Both males and females can turn on each other, so be careful with your potential cannibals.
30. Where can I see the tailless whip scorpion?
Tailless whip scorpions aren't rare, so you can find them in a variety of zoos, pet shops, and insect houses.
Just know that they don't always make for great viewing because of their shy and secretive nature.
Watch me Whip…
These are just a few tailless whip scorpion facts for the entomologist in you. They might look intimidating, but once you learn about their gentle, mostly-harmless ways, it's hard to be frightened of them anymore!
Did you learn something new? Still have questions? Let me know down below!
Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing. She graduated high school at sixteen and started her own business, Everywhere Wild Media. And she runs Everywhere Wild and JustBirding. She also guest blogs on Storyteller.Travel
She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.