Giant Vinegaroon Fact File
Meet an invertebrate with a whip-like tail!
The Giant vinegaroon is also known as the giant whip scorpion or grampus in parts of their range.
They are named vinegaroon after the smell which comes from the acetic acid, the primary component of vinegar that gives it its smell, they spray at predators. This helps to defend them against predators.
Giant vinegaroons are carnivores feeding on invertebrates and even small frogs in some cases. They are primarily active by night.
They spend the first three years of their life developing to adult size. After the first breeding season they are so exhausted that most will pass away and only breed once.
Read on to learn more about these incredible invertebrates.
The giant vinegaroon is also known whip-scorpion due to the long whip-like tail at the end of its body. This can be used to spray acetic acid at a threat. Acetic acid is also known as vinegar which gives rise to their common name.
These animals share a range of physical similarities with a scorpion though they are more closely related to spiders.
They have two segments to their body with the cephalothorax at the front and the abdomen at the back.
A pair of eyes are located at the center of the head with three additional eyes located on either side of these. Even though giant vinegaroons have a total of eight eyes they have poor eyesight.
Most often their body is colored black with some sections being brown or reddish-brown.
They have a total of eight legs. The back six are used for walking while the front two are held up when walking. This front pair are long and thin compared to the others. They are primarily used for sensing. The walking legs are also covered by sensory hairs.
At the front of the body are two large claws known as the the pedipalps. These are used to grip and hold objects.
Females tend to have a wider body and smaller pedipalps than the males. On average a whip scorpion will measure 40-60mm(1.6-2.4in).
Giant vinegaroons are carnivores. They feed upon insects and arthropods.
Larger females have been seen to cannibalize smaller individuals.
Their burrow may inadvertently act a way to catch prey. Food items will fall through the burrow opening and can be consumed.
Giant vinegaroons are native to North America and can be found in the United States and Mexico. Their range covers New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida and much of Mexico.
These animals are found in deserts, grassland and arid scrubland. They may range in to dry, mountainous areas and can be found up to 6,000m (19,685ft).
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Breeding takes place during the fall. At night a pair will come together. Females which are not receptive to mating will fight and push the male away. A willing female will perform a courtship dance with the male which can go on for multiple hours.
The male deposits the sperm sac and then waits two hours for it to harden. Once this is complete she will pick it up and he pushes it inside her.
Between 20 and 40 eggs are laid in a fluid filled sac. She will carry this on her abdomen for two months until they hatch.
At birth the young are white and carried on the mothers back. They remain there till their first molt at one month old. Young giant vinegaroons will molt a total of four times before they become an adult.
During each molt they retreat to their burrow. After losing the old skin they are colored white. They continue to darken and harden for a further four weeks.
The process of raising young is physically exhausting for their mother and will often end with her death.
Sexual maturity is reached after the last molt.
Giant vinegaroons are active by night. During the day they seek shelter under a rock or log.
These animals show a increase in activity during the rainy season while during the driest parts of the year most of their time is spent underground.
A giant vinegaroon will dig its own burrow. They carry dirt out using their pedipalps. They will move burrows once every few months.
Outside of the breeding season these animals are solitary. When giant vinegaroons encounter one another they will fight which can end in death.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the giant vinegaroon will include mammals such as mice, coatis, racoons, armadillos and skunks and invertebrates such as spiders.
When threatened they will raise the abdomen and pedipalps. They can also spray acetic acid from a gland at the base of the tail. They will only spray when they are touched. It may take 19 sprays to deplete their supply of acetic acid.
The giant vinegaroon was first described and named during 1835.
Giant vinegaroons are commonly known as 'whip scorpions' due to the whip-like tail at the end of the body. They also have a secondary common name used in parts of their range which is grampus.
Mastigoproctus giganteus is the only species of whip-scorpion to found in the United States.
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Acrocynus, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Clay Junell from austin, texas, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
National Geographic Society (U. S.), 2012. National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. Natl Geographic Soc Childrens Books.
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. 2021. Mastigoproctus giganteus – Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. [online] Available at: <https://www.cambridgebutterfly.com/mastigoproctus-giganteus/> [Accessed 13 May 2021].
Miner, A. 2014. "Mastigoproctus giganteus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 13, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Mastigoproctus_giganteus/
Jonathansjungleroadshow.co.uk. 2021. Meet a giant vinegaroon | Jonathan's Jungle Roadshow. [online] Available at: <https://www.jonathansjungleroadshow.co.uk/meet-a-giant-vinegaroon.html> [Accessed 14 May 2021].
Mitchel, R. and Kern Jr, W., 2020. giant whip scorpion – Mastigoproctus giganteus giganteus (Lucas, 1835). [online] Entnemdept.ufl.edu. Available at: <http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/misc/giant_whip_scorpion.htm> [Accessed 14 May 2021].