Researchers at Ben-Gurion University have discovered that scorpions – the venomous desert arthropods – dig intricately designed burrows in which to prepare for a night on the hunt.

Dr. Amanda Adams, a postdoc in the Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology at the Midreshet Ben-Gurion on Ben-Gurion University’s Sede Boqer Campus, has been investigating the lifestyle of wild largeclawed scorpions, alongside her adviser, Prof. Berry Pinshow.

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Rather than simply digging holes in the ground, scorpions prepare sophisticated burrows, which the researchers believe are purposefully designed to meet the animals’ physiological needs.

Each burrow begins with a short, vertical entrance shaft that flattens out a few centimeters below the surface into a horizontal platform, according to the findings. These platforms may provide a safe, warm place to increase their body temperatures prior to their nighttime forage, Adams and Pinshow believe. As ectothermic animals, scorpions rely on energy from their environments to regulate their internal temperatures.

After the horizontal platform, the burrows then turn sharply downward, descending further toward a dead-end chamber, the research found.

The cool and humid chamber provides a refuge in which scorpions can rest during the heat of the day with minimal water loss.

Adams and Pinshow trapped the scorpions and then prepared replica casts of their burrows by filling them with molten aluminum, information from BGU said. Once the casts solidified, they underwent 3-D laser scanner and computer software analysis.

“Very little is known about burrow environments,” Adams said. “We plan to expand our studies to more scorpion species around the world to test how burrow structure is shaped to be part of the burrow builder’s extended physiology.”

Adams will be presenting the results of their research at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Manchester, United Kingdom, on Thursday.
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