Get to know the Chinese swimming scorpion

Text by Nyza Ho
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

Did you know that scorpions also exist in the wild here in the Philippines? While many Filipinos doubt this, local scorpions are actually quite common. Some local scorpions exist in or on the bark of trees, while some thrive in the humid forests of the Philippines.

What may surprise you is that some scorpions can swim. Take the Chinese swimming scorpion or Lychas mucronatus. This scorpion is found in the Philippines as well as some other neighboring Asian countries. At the moment Lychas mucronatus is still commonly found in the wild.

However some agricultural practices and deforestation continuously puts some specimens at risk of habitat loss and some specimens are being pushed away from their natural habitat, and some individuals are finding their way in suburban areas where they come across people every now and then. Does the Lychas mucronatus really swim? Some accounts has been recorded in other countries in which the Lychas mucronatus has been observed to swim when trying to escape threats or hunt food.

However, no successful attempts to duplicate this behavior in captivity have been made here in the Philippines so far. The Lychas mucronatus often lives near water, but it is also able to tolerate dryness in the habitat fairly well, so it depends on whether the individual specimen is well adapted to wet or dry surroundings in its natural habitat since some specimens are more adapted to dryness than wetness of their habitat. The specimens living near the bodies of water were the ones recorded to be able to swim in some countries. This species is very interesting since it can actually swim when necessary, though this is only on rare occasions. Its population is widespread along central and Southeast Asia, and it is even served as a delicacy in other countries.

Lychas mucronatus can be bred in captivity fairly easily

Lychas mucronatus is a species that can be bred in captivity fairly easily. The sexual dimorphism (difference between male and female) of the Lychas mucronatus is very evident in their claws or chela, so human selection of the specimens for captive breeding can be done easily. The gestation period for this specimen is 3-4 months, depending on the temperature where they are.

Warmer temperatures make their gestation periods shorter. Ideally, Lychas mucronatus should be housed in tall containers with just enough floor area for them to roam around and hunt for food. In their natural habitat, they usually stay on the bark of trees; thus, the height of their enclosure is necessary for them to live comfortably. This also mimics their natural habitat.

The Lychas mucronatus can live in colonies or small groups, they are safe to be housed together, however sometimes cannibalism still takes place when there are weaker specimens in the colony or while an individual is in its molting or postmolt phase.

Is the Luchas mucronatus scorpion deadly? If not, what is the potency of its venom?

No, the Lychas mucronatus is not deadly under normal circumstances since the venom potency is considered to be moderate ranging from level 2-3. Even though the sting itself is not deadly, it can deal enough mechanical damage to be painful and the venom injected causes localized irritation, burning sensation and pain. Allergic reaction of an individual must be taken to account, since any venom injected on an individual can be deadly if accompanied by allergic reactions.

Fast Facts:

OTHER NAMES:
Isometrus atomarius Simon; Isometrus chinensis Karsch; Lychas baldasseronii Caporiacco; Lychas mentaweius
Roewer; Lychas nucifer Basu; Scorpio armillatus Gervais; Scorpio curvidigitatus Gervais; Scorpio
mucronatus Fabricius; Tityus varius Koch.

MARKINGS:
Body is mostly yellow with grey or brown spots

DISTRIBUTION:
Population is widely spread over Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Java, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sumatra, Thailand, and Vietnam.

TEMPERAMENT:
Calm; prefers to flee instead of fight, though it is an ambush predator. It is mainly nocturnal. Not
aggressive in small groups, it can share space with others when it is an adult; but when it is young, there
is the risk of cannibalism.

SIZE:
From 4-6.5 centimeters

HOUSING:
It does not take too much space; a container measuring 20 x 20 x 20 cm will fit up to 10 adults; a good rule of thumb is to choose containers that are higher than they are wide. It likes bark for hiding and climbing, so
replicating conditions in the wild is always ideal. The country of origin of the particular Lychas mucronatus one has will help determine the conditions it is used to; just remember that it is mainly arboreal and likes wet environments.

TEMPERATURES:
Prefers 26-28 C in the daytime; nighttime, 20 C. They can tolerate temperatures of up to 30 C but owners must
be careful to maintain a high humidity in their enclosures. Overly low humidity can kill young Lychas mucronatus by dehydrating them.

MATURITY:
Reached between 6-7 months, with males sometimes attaining adulthood at 5 months of age.

HEALTH & DIET:
Relatively hardy, these scorpions are also quite speedy. It feeds mostly on cockroaches or crickets. Reason for appeal among hobbyists: Exotic appearance (though it does display all the hallmarks of a Buthid); ease in
acquiring specimens; easy to breed in captivity.

DID YOU KNOW?
• Lychas mucronatus is considered the most ornate representative of the genus Lychas

• It is considered the most widespread and common scorpion species across Southeast Asia along with
Liocheles australasiae

• Their appearance on Rakata Kecil (Indonesia) after the island was effectively sterilized by the Krakatau
eruption of 1883 (Vachon 1988), demonstrates its potential as a cosmopolitan species; taking advantage
of human commute among other means to spread beyond its’ range to distant lands.

• Various regional cultures have utilized them as ingredients in traditional medicines or simply as food; it is considered a delicacy in China, Thailand, and Vietnam, served freshly grilled. They are even processed, packaged, and sold as light snacks in some supermarkets in Bangkok.

(Compiled by CFB from http://www.panarthropoda.de/sub/haltung/skorpione/familien/lychasmucronatusen.php, http://www.scorpion-forum.com/t4977-asf-lychas-mucronatus, and http://www.gbif.org/species/6893609/synonyms)

This appeared in Animal Scene’s June 2015 issue.