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  • Scorpions

    I've got a link to a talk in the excellent ABC series "Conversations with Richard Fidler" on these remarkable animals.

    Scorpions have been on this earth a lot longer than we have and in fact pre-date the dinosaurs. They're so hardy that they can survive ionising radiation. One was once frozen but left on a bench ... and it thawed out and walked off.

    The interviewee here is not a biologist but a historian - specifically an expert in the history and languages of Ancient Mesopotamia (c.f. Greek: "Between the Rivers"). However, a fair bit of information about the natural history of scorpions also comes out in the interview - so those who would be interested in that don't miss it.

    The interviewee mentions, what I hadn't recalled, that "scorpion-men" appear in what I suppose is the Western World's oldest written work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh. (This, some readers will recall, contains the "Noah" story - there he's called Utnapishtim.) Anyway, it appears that scorpions were regarded as liminal beings (ones that exist on the fringes of different places - i.e. between our world and the realm of the dead, as the interviewee explains). I don't know why this should be. (I know that amphibians were probably seen in this way, owing to contexts in which their remains turn up as placed in Neolithic contexts in Britain - and obviously because they live physically between land and water. And notice, by the way, such liminal animals in the chant of the witches in Macbeth). Perhaps it has something to do with them burrowing under the earth.

    But scorpions turn up in mythology in many places all over the world. In Native American culture, for example, they turn up in rock paintings in Tennessee.

    On the medical side, their venom seems to have been used in Ancient medicine - perhaps as an analgesic - and is now being studied for applications in modern medicine. Some at least can glow in the dark, and there's a medical application for that, too.

    Finally, on the dark side scorpion genes have been inserted into vegetables. And on the tragic side it's believed that one of the habitats in which they probably exhibit greatest diversity is in the Andes ... where their presence has been revealed because they've turned up dead from pesticides. Here's the link

    http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs...ations/7859838

  • #2
    When I moved to BC, I never realized that we have native scorpions, although we are on the fringe of a desert. Yet my daughter found a small light brown one hiding in a house and brought it home in a jar. Sadly, just before the local conservation office returned our call requesting it, it died. Somehow one doesn't associate scorpions with mountainous territory filled with lakes. We do have sagebrush and rattlesnakes; so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised. ;-)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Paysan View Post
      When I moved to BC, I never realized that we have native scorpions, although we are on the fringe of a desert. Yet my daughter found a small light brown one hiding in a house and brought it home in a jar. Sadly, just before the local conservation office returned our call requesting it, it died. Somehow one doesn't associate scorpions with mountainous territory filled with lakes. We do have sagebrush and rattlesnakes; so maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised. ;-)
      Thanks! Quite a story.

      Apparently they're to be found on every continent apart from Antarctica. I think it says that in the blurb for the lady's book, but I'm using a handheld at the moment and Amazon doesn't display fully on it:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1780235925/

      I was also interested to find out that they can be arboreal. Apparently, the ones in the Andes that they hadn't known about turned up dropping out of trees when drift from crop-spraying got to them.

      It's an alarming comment on contemporary civilisation that we could, conceivably, render a species extinct before we even knew of its existence.

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      • #4
        Just noticed reported as news yesterday that the last known leaf fringed frog from a certain Panama rainforest died at Atlanta Zoo. The scientists expressed same dismay as you that species can be wiped out unknowingly.
        http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/s...-dies-42496123

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        • #5
          Oh, dear!

          Have you ever come across Bill Bryson's writing? In one of his books - I think it's this one:

          https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Woods-Wo...dp/1784161446/

          (and I believe that book is now being turned into a film) - he mentions a golf club somewhere in the U.S. Anyway, they'd cleared this land to make a golf course, and there was a lake in it. They decided to keep the lake, and some bright spark thought it might be nice to stock it with trout, so to "clean it up" first they threw pesticide in the water. Several fish that had never been seen before and that may have been unique to that lake floated dead to the surface of the water.

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          • #6
            Silent Spring revisited.

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