Are you familiar with the word ‘pseudo’? It’s an adjective which means fake or insincere. You may have come across pseudoscience – a good example is astrology. And surely you’ve heard of the word ‘pseudonym’ which means a fictitious name. Authors often use pseudonyms – examples are Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – his middle name is unusual, don’t you think?), Richard Bachman whose real name is Stephen King, the horror writer, and Robert Galbraith whose real name is J K Rowling, of Harry Potter fame.
The above is a rather rambling introduction to a creature I found crawling across my colouring book the other afternoon. It looked like a tiny beetle, but what was most striking was the fact that it had enormous feelers. The feelers were at least as long as its whole body size, if not bigger! Luckily I had a magnifying glass to hand and so took a look at the beetle through it.
Firstly, the feelers were not feelers – they were pincers! Somewhat astounded, I counted its legs – there were not six, but eight. It wasn’t an insect after all, but an arachnid of some sort. Up close, it looked like a tailless miniature scorpion.
Quickly, I googled its description and what returned was pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions have been around for a very long time – the oldest fossil is 380 million years old. This fossil looks just like current-day pseudoscorpions and therefore it is believed that they evolved very early in the history of land animals. It also suggests that they have not needed to adapt much since then – this is likely due to their environments being stable.
There are over 3,000 recorded species of pseudoscorpions and they appear all over the world. In the UK alone, we have 27 species of them. Despite the huge numbers, you are unlikely to see one as not only are they very small (averaging 5mm), they also like to live in hard-to-get-to places, such as under tree bark, in leaf litter, soil, under stones, in caves or even in the nooks of rocks. And due to their colour, they are mostly camouflaged against these natural materials.
Your best chance of seeing one is, as I did, in a book. Of the kind who live in our houses (Chelifer cancroides), their staple diet is book lice and house dust mites – so if you do see one, think twice before putting it outside. If you have a bookshelf that is rarely disturbed and a little dusty, that’s the ideal place for a pseudoscorpion.
I was extra-lucky to see ‘mine’ as the paper I use is a brilliant white which showed the ‘scorpion’ off in all its glory. I made the mistake of putting him outside and I’m now hoping he makes his way back in as he’s a useful, if teeny tiny, hoover! Have you ever seen one? Let Education Quizzes know by completing the box below – we’d love to hear from you.
To find out more about the natural world and the amazing creatures who live there, have a look at the Nature section of our site. It contains more than 60 quizzes which are all free to play. You’ll find questions on birds, mammals, invertebrates, fish, reptiles, amphibians, trees, flowers, minerals and even outer space! There’s bound to be something of interest there for you!
In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about this unusual arachnid, go to Buglife. Their website is packed with information about the little creatures.