This two-tailed Arizona Bark Scorpion seen by @jaykeller in Arizona is our Observation of the Week!
“My parents told me that in my earliest years, up to about age 4, I was deathly afraid of anything with more than 4 legs. By age 6 or so, that fear turned to intrigue, and I never looked back,” says Jay Keller. At age thirteen he had an 8,000 specimen insect collection and even helped the assistant curator of the Frost Entomological Museum of Penn State sort and re-catalog large portions of their collection and conduct public tours. In his teen years, nature took a backseat to other interests (“sports, cars, music, GIRLS etc.”) but he was always aware of it. By his mid-twenties, however, he got back into nature “by becoming an all-too-serious birdwatcher, which waned a few years ago as I became bored with that and started re-noticing all forms of nature, especially rekindling my interest in insects - now primarily through photography vs. collecting.”
Jay’s friend BJ Stacey (@finatic) introduced him to iNat a few years ago, and he says “once I decided to dip my toe into it, I became hooked, and now spend far too much time with it for my own good! You will always see me on the leaderboards not because I want to be at the top of the heap, but more because I am a very active nature photographer who tends to be in nature all the time, which is the one thing other than my family that provides me stress relief and happiness.” As of today (September 1st, 2016), BJ and Jay are our two top observers, with over 65,000 (!) observations between them.
The two of them recently took a trip to Arizona, which is when Jay found this remarkable two-tailed Arizona Bark Scorpion, as he was using a UV flashlight to look for fluorescing scorpions. “I observed it for a minute before I realized that something was ‘off’...when I quickly realized that there was only one set of legs and chelae, it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at a single Bark Scorpion with two metasomas and two stingers!” In terms of anatomy, a scorpion’s “tail” is called the metasoma, and is an extension of its abdomen, or opisthosoma (the anus is actually located near the end of the metasoma, towards the stinger).
Wanting to study this rare individual, Jay notes that he “very carefully” was able to put it in a vial (the Arizona Bark Scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in North America) and took it home, where he says he “[gained] permission from my wife to maintain such a creature at least for a period of time.” You can read more updates and info about the scorpion on Jay’s iNat journal post here, it’s definitely worth checking out. And yes, both tails seem to be totally functional and are used for stinging. He notes that “others who are far more experienced with scorpions than I, and who have themselves observed many thousands of individuals have told me they have not yet found one.”
In regards to photographing and exploring nature, Jay says “I have a strong desire to simply understand what I am seeing out there, and the photos not only aid in their eventual identification, but ultimately make me want to research the creatures at a much deeper level, which is in part made possible with the community on iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a really exceptional forum for all those with a keen interest in the natural world to learn about, enjoy and share with others the amazing diversity of life that exists around us.”
- by Tony Iwane
- Here’s video of a two-tailed scorpion in captivity, feeding on a cricket. This one doesn’t use its stingers here, however.
- If you want to get a UV flashlight for yourself, they’re relatively cheap and easy to find on the internet. It’s fun to go on a night hike and see what else fluoresces, like millipedes, lichens, plants and more!