As if scorpions weren't cool enough, did you know that they actually glow under UV light? Insect artist Sarah Folts, aka The Butterfly Babe, recently posted some incredible video footage that shows just how brilliantly these arachnids glow. In the short clip, a mother scorpion and her babies are exposed to UV light. The results are incredible.
The mom's exoskeleton transforms into fluorescent turquoise the moment the light is shined on it. The babies, on the other hand, take on a purple hue. So what causes this magical occurrence? Scorpions have a cuticle, which is a flexible part of their exoskeleton. Part of a scorpion's cuticle is a thin layer called the hyaline layer. This layer reacts with blacklight or moonlight to cause a fantastic glow.
And we're not talking about a faint glow, but something big and bold. The hyaline layer is so strong that even fossilized scorpions emit a glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. And, scientists have found that scorpion samples preserved in liquid will cause the liquid to begin glowing. Interestingly, researchers are still trying to understand why scorpions have this ability. While there's no direct answer about why scorpions can glow, there are several different theories that have been floated by researchers.
Among the theories supported by studies is the idea that fluorescence appears to help scorpions detect and avoid UV light. In fact, a 2012 study appeared to show that scorpions detect light with their entire bodies, not just their eyes. As scorpions are nocturnal, understanding if there is light or not lets them know when they can come out and feed.
Another fascinating aspect of the scorpion mystery is that the glow gets stronger as the cuticles harden. So, scorpions don't fluoresce as much right after they molt. And similarly, the babies in the video still have a soft cuticle, which accounts for the color difference.
Whatever the precise reason for their glow, it certainly helps scientists out in the field. By shining a blacklight, researchers are easily able to spot scorpions out and about in the evening when they are at their most active.