Mastigoproctus giganteus. Used with permission. (c) Bryan E. Reynolds.

Habitat and Geography

             Whip scorpions are prevalent all around the world and are commonly found in the tropics and subtropics, with most in tropical rainforests (Kern and Mitchell 2011,Map of Mastigoproctus giganteus geographic location. Image taken from wikipedia commons. Edited by Jacob F. and Andrew P. Hembree 2013). However, Mastigoproctus giganteus whip scorpions are burrowers which are typically found in dark, seasonally humid areas like pine forests, grasslands, scrubs, and barrier islands (Kern and Mitchell 2011). These areas include dry areas of the southwest US and Mexico like Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas (Schmidt et al. 1999, Kern and Mitchell 2011). This organism is found in specific areas and is found in one type of habitat with almost no variation. Interestingly, M. giganteus is in fact the only species of whip scorpion which is found in the US.
            These giant whip scorpions use their massive pedipalps (claws/pincers) to burrow themselves underneath many things like logs, rocks, and rotting wood (Hembree 2013). Other places you can find these creatures are in areas with loose soil, leaf litter, and the scariest thought is in humid moist corners within buildings.  M. giganteus burrow themselves in well-drained soil during the driest periods of the year and come up to the surface during May or June. These creatures will continue to come to the surface during the night until November while it is the rainy season (Kern and Mitchell 2011).
            Punzo (2006), from the biology department at the University of Tampa conducted an observational study where they discovered the shelter selections of 321 M. giganteus species during the daytime. Most (70.4%) of the whip scorpions they found they discovered in rock crevices. They also found that 4.4% of the sample size they found under plant debris, and the remaining 25.2% were found inside of small pre-made mammal holes. Due to being strictly nocturnal, none were found outside of their burrows during the day. 66.7% of the shelter samples found were also in the shade. The depth of M. giganteus shelters varied from 6.4-39.7 cm and the width of the shelters they found M. giganteus specimens in was between 0.7-2.9 cm.
             Hembree (2013), conducted an experimental study in which they took 18 whip scorpions and put them into a controlled environment. Each environment had a regulated temperature, controlled humidity and set on a 12 hour light and dark schedule. The object of this experiment was to get molds of the burrows for observation. Another goal was to actually see the act of M. giganteus creating their burrows. They left the whip scorpions in their enclosures for 14-16 days at a time and were randomly checked on to see any changes. What Hembree observed while examining their burrows was, the M. giganteus made two types of burrows. There were permanent burrows which were built with greater care and were more complex. The other kind of burrow, built with less attention to detail, was the temporary burrow. The temporary burrows were classified as burrows which were only in use for less than 72 hours. These temporary burrows were quickly made and were generally a “J” shape. The permanent burrows however were deeper, more complex, had bigger tunnels, more turns and were constantly being modified. In the beginning of the Mastigoproctus giganteus in habitat. Used with permission. Copyright © 2005 Aaron Goodwin.experiment the top of the soil in each tank was smooth. The experiment showed the M. giganteus put the extra dirt and soil into piles which built up to almost 10 cm of added soil around the entrance hole(s). There were also impressions in the area around the opening of the burrow from the whip scorpion. The impression marks and mounds are all due to how it digs and the body structure of the whip scorpion itself. The whip scorpions were fed crickets during the experiment which showed the whip scorpion did not only use its burrow for shelter, but also for hunting. During the experiment the crickets put into the enclosures for food would enter the burrow with the whip scorpion waiting to consume the cricket. The whip scorpion doing this is able to consume its prey without even leaving its burrow. To find out more about the eating habits and the interactions with other species of M. giganteus feel free to visit the Interactions page.

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