NEW YORK, June 21 (UPI) -- The burrows of scorpion species from different parts of the world are relatively uniform, with similar structural elements.
"It's amazing how ubiquitous scorpion burrows are in some parts of the world, yet very little has been done to study them until now," Lorenzo Prendini, a zoologist and curator of invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History, said in a news release.
Prendini and his research partners used molten aluminum casts and 3D scanning to study the architecture of scorpion burrows from across the globe. Their analysis, which looked at the underground homes of several hundred scorpion species hailing from at least 10 different families, revealed a variety of recurring design elements.
In a new paper published in the journal The Science of Nature, researchers argue that the burrows of scorpions should be considered a part of the animal's wide physiology.
"Burrow architecture can extend an animal's physiology by performing functions its body would otherwise have to do on its own, like maintaining a comfortable temperature or improving ventilation," said lead study author Berry Pinshow, a researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
Researchers found three main commonalities among scorpion burrows. The first is a horizontal platform on the floor where the scorpion can keep an eye on its entryway and the outside world -- a place from which to monitor the movements of potential prey, predators and mates.
The second commonality includes two or more switch-back bends that diminish air flow and help maintain consistent humidity levels and low temperatures. The final constant is an expansive terminal chamber deep enough to ensure stable, cool temperatures, even during the hottest part of the day. This chamber is also used as a place to feed, molt, mate and give birth.
While variables such as soil composition, hardness and moisture can influence the varying dimensions of scorpion burrows, the previous three elements are always present. The findings suggest scientists should consider these elements as part of the scorpion's evolutionary history, shaped by millions of years of natural selection.