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Scorpions glow (fluorescence) when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. At present, the biological functionality –if any– of this intriguing fluorescence is unknown and awaits further investigation.
Daniel López-Cabreraa and co-workers recently published an article investigating some aspects of fluorescence in the exoskeleton of 24 species of scorpions. The study suggests that the intensity of fluorescence is heterogeneous throughout the scorpion's exoskeleton (some parts fluoresce more intensely than other). Also, they conclude that fluorescence may correlate directly to the ecomorphotype of the scorpions.
Scorpions are a mesodiverse and nocturnal group of arachnids inhabiting most biomes worldwide. Different species of scorpions have divergent adaptations to the substrate they live in, but most of them share an intriguing characteristic: their exoskeleton contains fluorophores that emit blue-greenish fluorescence under ultraviolet radiation. Although there are some reports in the literature on the study of fluorescence in scorpions, the biological functionality of this light emission is currently unknown and is under debate. In this work, the properties of emission from the scorpion's exoskeleton are studied by means of digitally processed photographs taken of living specimens under ultraviolet illumination and complemented with standard spectroscopic measurements of emission and excitation spectra. With the aim of identifying possible correlations between the fluorescence, the characteristics color of the exoskeleton and the biology of the scorpions, 4 families, 9 genera and 24 species were studied. Our results suggest that the intensity of fluorescence is heterogeneous throughout the scorpion's exoskeleton studied here in such a way that pedipalps and metasomal segments fluoresce more intensely than the mesosomal segments. The spectrum of fluorescence across species is practically identical, suggesting that the same fluorophores are present in their exoskeletons. However, the fluorescence intensity emitted by each species varies according to their characteristic color (associated with the exoskeleton optical reflectance). Since the coloration of the exoskeleton is determined by the concentration of melanin and other pigments according to the substrate where scorpions live in, we conclude by suggesting that fluorescence may correlate directly to the ecomorphotype of the scorpions.
López-Cabrera D, Ramos-Ortiz G, González-Santillán E, Espinosa-Luna R. Characterization of the fluorescence intensity and color tonality in the exoskeleton of scorpions. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. 2020;209:111945. [Subscription required for full text]
Thanks to Edmundo González Santillán for sending me their article!