Species of the Week: The Brown Waterscorpion

Photo by Nata Culhane

 If you look closely at this picture, you’ll spot our #SpeciesOfTheWeek – the Brown Waterscorpion (Ranatra fusca)! Waterscorpions live in ponds and streams, hanging out on aquatic vegetation or right on shore where they like to bask in the sun. Occasionally they dry out their weak wings, which are usually kept flat on their back and mainly used if their home dries up. Waterscorpions are carnivorous stealth hunters (like herons!), lying on vegetation with their face in the water patiently looking for prey with their big eyes. When they spot a potential meal, they use their back legs to push themselves towards it, grab it with their long front arms, and impale it with their needle-like beak – sharp enough to cut human skin! Finally, they season their meal with digestive enzymes, like spiders do! These enzymes partially digest the prey’s tissue, turning it into a bug smoothie! A waterscorpion’s tail has a crucial role in hunting, but it’s very different from what land scorpions use their tails for… it’s actually a breathing tube! They keep a bubble of air between their front legs and abdomen at all times and use their tail to diffuse oxygen. This is why waterscorpions can spend so much time with their faces in the water without running out of air. Interestingly, waterscorpion eggs, which are laid in submerged vegetation or shoreside moss, also have respiratory filaments protruding from them. In the winter, waterscorpions survive under the ice because their metabolism is lowered so much by the cold that the little amount of oxygen they get via diffusion from the water is enough to sustain them. Have you spotted these cool long bugs at the park? Keep an eye out for them along the shore when you’re looking for frogs!

This entry was posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Murphys Point, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Species of the Week. Bookmark the permalink.

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