How does it glow?
Beta-carboline, naturally occurring
What can we learn?
Adults of any scorpion species naturally glow green-yellow or blue under ultraviolet
First scientifically described in 1954, the phenomenon led to the
creation of "scorpion detectors"--black lights--which made camping in
scorpion-prone climates a less intimidating proposition.
Using ultraviolet light, scientists have been able to study the
scorpions in their native nocturnal habitats without disturbing the animals,
which may lead to new insights into how we might avoid them. For
example, a 1972 report documented scorpions as high as
8 feet (2.5 meters) in trees.
A 2001 Marshall University paper suggested that--sometime in the past, when the insects may not have been strictly nocturnal--the scorpions may have
evolved their UV-reflecting armor as a sort of sunblock.
But arachnophobes, take note: Young scorpions don't glow under ultraviolet light, because
the arachnids' fluorescence doesn't develop until later in life.
Photograph by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images