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J Exp Biol. 2001 Feb;204(Pt 3):607-13.

Low metabolic rate in scorpions: implications for population biomass and cannibalism.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4004, USA.


Scorpions are abundant in arid areas, where their population biomass may exceed that of vertebrates. Since scorpions are predators of small arthropods and feed infrequently across multi-year lifespans, a parsimonious explanation for their observed, anomalously high biomass may be a depressed metabolic rate (MR). We tested the hypothesis that scorpion MR is significantly depressed compared with that of other arthropods, and we also measured the temperature-dependence of the MR of scorpions to quantify the interaction between large seasonal variations in desert temperatures and MR and, thus, long-term metabolic expenditure. Scorpion MR increased markedly with temperature (mean Q(10)=2.97) with considerable inter-individual variation. At 25 degrees C, the MRs of scorpions from two genera were less than 24 % of those of typical terrestrial arthropods (spiders, mites, solpugids and insects) of the same mass. It is likely, therefore, that the low MR of scorpions contributes to their high biomass in arid areas. The combination of high biomass and high production efficiency associated with low MR may also favor a density-dependent "transgenerational energy storage" strategy, whereby juveniles are harvested by cannibalistic adults that may be closely related to their juvenile prey.

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