Vinegaroon (order Thelyphonida)

The other day my friend mentioned some strange creatures to me: vinegaroons. At that point I didn’t really care what animal they were – I just really liked the name vinegaroon. Still, it turns out that vinegaroons are pretty neat, and I’d like to share them with you.

Vinegaroons are arachnids, and look a fair bit like scorpions (though they are more closely related to spiders). They have three pairs of legs that they use for walking, and an fourth pair that is modified into a pair of sensory organs that resemble antennae. Like scorpions, vinegaroons have two large front claws, which are used to catch and hold prey. The most notable feature of the vinegaroon is its tail, which is long and thin. Vinegaroons are often called whip scorpions, because of this tail. Vinegaroons can use this tail to spray a nasty liquid at their enemies. The spray is composed of acetic and caprylic acids, which make the stuff smell like vinegar, giving the vinegaroon its strange name.

Vinegaroons live in tropical and subtropic areas, but are not found in Europe or Australia. Only one species is found in Africa, so the majority of Vinegaroons are found in the Americas and Asia. They are burrowing creatures, and can dig their own homes or find nice places to stay like rotting logs or rocks. Pretty much anywhere that is dark and humid is perfect for a vinegaroon.

When female vinegaroons get pregnant, they seal themselves in a burrow and lay their eggs in privacy. The eggs are covered in a pretty sac that keeps the eggs moist and attached to the mother where they are safe. For the entirety of the incubation period (which lasts months), the mother holds the egg sack off the ground, and does not eat. Her work doesn’t end with hatching, as the young clamber onto her back and attach themselves to her. This lasts until the first moult, when the babies finally leave the burrow. In some species of vinegaroon, the mother is so starved from looking after her young that she dies shortly after they leave the burrow.

A female vinegaroon holding her egg sac off the ground.  Source: Wikipedia

A female vinegaroon holding her egg sac off the ground.
Source: Wikipedia

If you ever encounter a vinegaroon, don’t panic. They aren’t venomous, and the worst they can do is spray you with some acid. Actually, that sounds pretty bad. Try not to run into one. And if you do, don’t bother it. I’m sure they’ll leave you alone.

Cover image source: http://www.cutehomepets.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/pet-vinegaroon.jpg

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