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


              Mastigoproctus giganteus is a solitary, nocturnal hunter that hides in its burrow during the day. It will often hunt near man-made lights to find insects that flock around them. When it comes to food, M. giganteus is not a picky eater. Although insects are its most common prey, it will eat almost any prey as long as it is within a reasonable size range. Its prey can include beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions, ants and even small vertebrates (Hogue 1993, Schmidt 2009). To see a video of M. giganteus eating a cricket, click HERE. Also take a look at other students’ pages to learn more about the ant Eciton hamatum or the grasshopper Melanoplus differentialis.M. giganteus eating a grasshopper. Used in accordance with creative commons license. © Clinton & Charles Robertson 2005.

          Additionally, it has been discovered that M. giganteus is very adept at overcoming other organisms’ chemical defenses. Floridobolus penneri, known as the Florida Scrub Millipede, is a chemically defended millipede, that when attacked, will release a liquid repellent that will deter almost any potential predator. Apart from the larva of the Phengodes laticollis meridian (Phengodid Beetle), M. giganteus is the only organism known that is able to get past this defense of the millipede and eat it (Schmidt 2009, Carrel and Britt 2009).
            Studies have shown that other arachnids such as tarantulas (Aphonopelma steindachneri), wolf spiders (Hogna carolinensis), solifuges (Eremobates palpisetulosus), and scorpions (Diplocentrus bigbendensis) are often in interspecific competition with M. giganteus. These organisms occupy a similar niche—all being nocturnal predators, living in the same habitat, and hunting the same prey (Punzo 2007).
            Although M. giganteus may not have a strong upper hand above these organisms as a predator, other organisms do not very commonly prey on it. Many other organisms may attempt to prey on it, but very few are successful due to M. giganteus's chemical defenses. Other Arthropods and Vertebrates alike will retreat from an encounter with M. giganteus, rubbing their bodies on the ground to relieve the effects of the acetic acid, giving the Vinegaroon plenty of time to escape (Schmidt 2009). M. giganteus eating a cockroach. Used with permission. © Paul E. Marek. In an experiment testing the effects of the spray on birds, solpugids, ants, lizards, grasshopper mice and an armadillo, all of the organisms would immediately retreat after the spray was discharged on them. Although spray usually did not do long-term damage to the predators, it was consistent (except for one trial of a solpugid) in preventing the predators from harming the Vinegaroon (Eisner 1961). This defense mechanism is generally so effective that there is no known predator that is a consistent threat to M. giganteus (Schmidt 2009).  
            M. giganteus has been known to cannibalize on occasion, although specific scientific cases in nature have not been observed. It has been hypothesized that the Vinegaroon’s chemical spray would not protect it against cannibalism, since when defending from other predators, the spray will usually get on the Vinegaroon’s hardened armor, and it has no damaging effects to the Vinegaroon (Eisner 1961). This suggests that M. giganteus could be particularly vulnerable to cannibalistic attacks from other Vinegaroons, because its usual defense mechanism would most likely be unsuccessful.
            Other than mating, the nurturing of young, and possibly cannibalism, it seems that M. giganteus live their lives separate from other members of their species, living alone in their burrows and hunting alone.

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