Scorpion vs. Centipede!

During a nocturnal survey in the Sonoran Desert, Dr. Matthew Graham (Eastern Connecticut State University) and I observed a female Arizona Bark Scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus) consuming a Sonoran Desert Centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha). We found the scorpion clinging to the vertical surface of a rock, upside down (characteristic of bark scorpions) with the centipede dangling from its mouthparts (chelicerae) and pincers (chelae).

scorpioncentipede_color[1]

Female Arizona Bark Scorpion feeding on a Sonoran Desert Centipede

Interestingly, the centipede was about twice the length of the scorpion! Centruroides sculpturatus are relatively small-bodied scorpions that possess slender chelae, so we find it astonishing that these scorpions would be capable of catching and subduing a prey item of this size. However, bark scorpions possess extremely potent venom, which may allow these scorpions to quickly subdue these large and potentially dangerous prey items. In desert ecosystems where encounters with prey may be rare, the water and nutrients available from large thick-bodied arthropods like centipedes could be worth the risk.
Check out our natural history note published in Western North American Naturalist! PDF

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