Fatal Attraction: Dance of the Scorpions
(2 scorpions engaging in promenade à deux)
We recently posted a scorpion dissection video (which you can check out here), where we explained the anatomy and physiology of these fascinating arachnids. However, did you know that despite their formidable pincers and venomous stingers, scorpions are actually very romantic animals? That’s right, scorpions perform a beautiful ‘tango’ dance while mating, and the male scorpions often give up their life for love.
During mating seasons, male scorpions first use pheromones to search for female scorpions. Although scientists don’t know much about scorpion sexual selection (i.e. what qualities female scorpions find attractive in a male), studies show that males of average size tend to have higher reproductive success.
When a male scorpion finally comes across a female, it has to approach with caution– the female scorpion might mistake the male scorpion as lunch instead of a potential mate. If the two scorpions decide to mate, they engage in a complicated mating ritual called ‘promenade à deux’ (meaning 'walk for two'), which looks very much like dancing. First, the male scorpion would grab onto the female scorpion’s pincers, then would lead her around as he searches for a suitable place to deposit his spermatophore (i.e. sperm packet). The male scorpion would have to be careful though, because female scorpions often try to push away or sting the male scorpion during this step of the dance. Interestingly, scientists noted a male scorpion sometimes “kiss” the female scorpion, where it would grab the female scorpion’s chelicerae (mouthpart) with its own. In certain species of scorpions, the male has also been noted to sting the female on the soft part of her body, possibly injecting a venom or chemical substance that pacifies her while dancing. Once the male deposits the spermatophore in a suitable location, he dances with the female, turning and moving the female scorpion around so that the hook on the spermatophore would catch onto the female scorpion’s genital opening. The ‘dance’ usually lasts around 2-3 or 10-15 minutes, and once the pickup of the spermatophore by the female genital opening is complete, the two scorpions go their separate ways.
Plot twist! Scorpions often engage in sexual cannibalism where the female scorpion attacks and eats the male scorpion after mating. Talk about fatal attraction.
Photo credit: https://www.thoughtco.com/scorpion-facts-4135393