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The Helpful Scorpion

It is not uncommon for a child to use a nightlight to help them fall asleep. The bathroom is another good place for a nightlight just in case you’re in the need for a midnight bathroom break. Next time you’re in the market for a light in the dark maybe the animal Kingdom could help. In the desert the scorpion blends in pretty well into its environment during the day. But at night if you add ultraviolet light to a scorpion’s shell, something surprising will happen.

The sun produces UV rays during the day, it’s the light that helps you get a tan. At night the moon reflects UV rays from the sun to the earth. For some reason this light makes the exoskeleton of the scorpion glow in the dark. Baby scorpions, or scorpions that have recently molted do not glow at first. They gradually gain the ability to glow a neon blue-green, the harder their exoskeleton gets. The how of the ability to glow in the dark is pretty well understood, the reason why is still a mystery. Does it act as a sunscreen to protect the scorpion from the powerful desert sun? Does it glow in the dark to help find other scorpions or confuse its prey? The most recent idea is that since scorpions avoid UV rays it acts as a type of gauge to show how much UV light they are getting.

There are plenty of nightlights out there to help you get around in the dark. With a few selectively placed scorpions and some black lights, the scorpion could help you find your way around at night. Just make sure they have a few bugs to eat and keep an eye out for their tail because they can be a bit poisonous.

Kids Discovery, January 14, 2015

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Eric Bender

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