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Cuddly Arachnids

April 10, 2007

A fearsome-looking relative of spiders and scorpions has a surprisingly gentle side.


The warm and fuzzy side of arachnids. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Tailless whipscorpions are fierce-looking tropical arachnids best known for their nasty fights, but Cornell University entomologist Linda Rayor has discovered that they have a little-known sensitive side. On a quiet, dark day in the lab, Rayor noticed a mother and her young gently touching each other, using their long feelers, or whips.

LINDA RAYOR (Cornell University):
The mother came to this group, and the youngsters turned around and faced her, and they started touching her palps, and her whips started touching all the youngsters, and I was watching this and just went crazy.

Rayor says such playful, non-aggressive touch is extremely rare in arachnids, even among kin. Rayor suspects whip scorpions’ sweet-natured family life hasn’t been well documented because the young hide easily in the wild.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.