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Researchers Discover Three New Scorpion Species That Make “Hissing” Sounds To Scare Away Predators

During the summer of 2017, a group of researchers discovered three new species of club-tailed scorpions in South America and the Caribbean. Two of these new species, Ischnotelson peruassu and Physoctonus striatus, were discovered in Brazil, and the third, Rhopalurus ochoai, was found in Venezuela. All club-tailed scorpions, including the three newly discovered species, are notable for having large bodies, striking colors and the ability to intimidate enemies by making a “hissing” sound.

The three new scorpion species were described in a recent study authored by Lauren Esposito, curator of archaeology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Considering the rapid rate of deforestation and other environmental issues affecting arthropod habitats in South America and the Caribbean, Esposito is determined to protect club-tailed scorpions from further population declines. Finding the three new species was not easy, as Esposito and her colleagues had to search for club-tailed specimens at night with the assistance of ultraviolet lights. Club-tailed scorpions, like the vast majority of scorpion species, are active at night, which is why the team used UV lights to track the creatures down. When scorpions are exposed to UV light, their exoskeletons produce a bright blue-green glow. The research team spent weeks looking beneath rocks, within caves and near rivers for new bush-tailed species. GPS coordinates marked every location where new specimens were discovered, which allowed the researchers to trace the specimens back to their home environment.

Although most bush-tailed scorpion species are rarely encountered in the wild, they are, nevertheless, well known for their disturbing ability to “hiss” at their enemies. It is important to note that bush-tailed scorpions do not produce this hissing sound in the same way that Madagascar hissing cockroaches produce their signature hissing sounds. Rather than emitting sounds by releasing air through spiracles, bush-tailed scorpions produce hissing sounds in a manner similar to how crickets and cicadas produce their signature sounds. Bush-tailed scorpions rub specialized body parts together in order to produce an audible hiss, which sounds quite similar to the hiss produced by Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The scorpion species that is most well-known for producing a hissing sound is the Opistophthalmus glabrifrons species. This species is more commonly known as the shiny burrowing scorpion or the yellow-legged creeping scorpion, and they dwell within several African countries.

Have you ever heard an arachnid produce an audible sound of any kind?

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