Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the order Scorpiones. They have eight legs, and are easily recognized by a pair of grasping pincers and a narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back and always ending with a stinger. The evolutionary history of scorpions goes back 435 million years. They mainly live in deserts but have adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions, and can be found on all continents except Antarctica. There are over 2,500 described species, with 22 extant (living) families recognized to date. Their taxonomy is being revised to account for 21st-century genomic studies. Scorpions primarily prey on insects and other invertebrates, but some species hunt vertebrates. They use their pincers to restrain and kill prey, or to prevent their own predation. The venomous sting is used for offense and defense. During courtship, the male and female grasp each other's pincers and dance while he tries to move her onto his sperm packet. All known species give live birth and the female cares for the young as their exoskeletons harden, transporting them on her back. The exoskeleton contains fluorescent chemicals and glows under ultraviolet light.
The vast majority of species do not seriously threaten humans, and healthy adults usually do not need medical treatment after a sting. About 25 species (fewer than one percent) have venom capable of killing a human, which happens frequently in the parts of the world where they live, primarily where access to medical treatment is unlikely. Scorpions appear in art, folklore, mythology, and commercial brands. Scorpion motifs are woven into kilim carpets for protection from their sting. Scorpius is the name of a constellation; the corresponding astrological sign is Scorpio. A classical myth about Scorpius tells how the giant scorpion and its enemy Orion became constellations on opposite sides of the sky.
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