Tailless Whip Scorpions: Amblypygi

We’ve covered the tailless whip scorpion in a previous issue of Notes from the Lab, but they are arachnids, and always worth revisiting in my opinion. These tailless whip scorpions, and the other orders of whip scorpions covered in this issue all have one similar anatomical anomaly: they only use three pairs of legs for walking. The fourth pair, known as antenniform legs, are elongated sensory legs that they use to interact with their environment. 

The sensory capabilities of these specialized annteniform legs (or “whips”) have only recently been uncovered by scientists. Amblypygids (and other whip scorpions) will “sweep” their environment with their whips, using sensory hairs on the ends to explore their surroundings. The whips are nearly three times as long as their walking legs, giving them ample room to explore. In addition to physical touch, some of these sensory hairs are olfactory receptors, meaning they allow the amblypygid to smell. These olfactory receptors act as a homing device, allowing the amblypygid to literally smell its way home.

Amblypygi Fun Fact! The bulky pedipalps and absurdly long whips may give the tailless whip scorpion a ferocious, alien-like visage, but they are in fact, excellent caregivers. The young will climb onto their mother’s back and remain there until their first molt. Even after molting, the young may maintain a relationship with their mother and siblings for the first year of their life, using those alien-like whips to interact and communicate with their family. This type of complex behavior is still being studied by scientists, along with the many other sensory capabilities of amblypygids.