The Vinegaroon is the most terrifying looking amalgam of body parts from different scary creatures that I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking up on in the dark. It’s not really scary to me, I love this fascinating animal, but its mere picture on my smart phone has been enough to cause girls to shriek and jump back. On the same day that God created the Duck-billed Platypus, he took took left over bits from a Scorpion, Crab, and El Chupacabra to create the sinister looking Vinegaroon, or Giant Whip Scorpion (Mastigoproctus giganteus). With a total length greater than 4″, jagged armor, crushing pedipalps (claws), and wiry probing appendages, the Vinegaroon indeed looks equipped to either maim or invade your body. In reality, it’s harmless and beneficial to humans.
But its ominous appearance isn’t even the most eccentric feature of this cryptic beast. When I happened upon this roving arthropod I knew what it was, but knew nothing about it. At most I thought it had a cool sounding, but inexplicable name. “Vinegaroon”- it sounds like a pirate ship or something. After halting the animal to photograph it, my nose was permeated by the pungent and slightly stinging smell of vinegar. Now I understood the name. The Vinegaroon sprays acetic acid from glands at the base of its filamentous tail. In other words, it shoots concentrated vinegar when confronted, which is intended to repel attackers with the sour smell and taste. While an animal that carries around a chemistry lab in its abdomen is no doubt an amazing feat of nature, it still seems like a feeble defense that would only deter the laziest of predators. I mean, if I was a hungry Racoon and knew I’d encounter a Vinegaroon, I’d probably bring along a little bottle of olive oil and some croutons. But who am I to question natural selection; if a trait proves useless, evolutionary pressure makes it disappear.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Zoom
Extension Tubes: no
Image Stack: no
Shutter Speed: 1/250th sec (high flash sync)
Light Source: Flash
Subject Size: 4″
Species: Vinageroon/Giant Whip Scorpion (Mastigoproctus giganteus)
Location: Huachuca Mountains, Arizona
The Giant Whip Scorpion is an Arachnid, but is only distantly related to true Scorpions. It has neither a venomous sting or bite. It has 4 sets of legs, but the front legs have developed into extremely long, rotating antennae. The Vinageroon hunts arthropods including Crickets, Cockroaches and smaller Scorpions. They’re nocturnal and spend the days inside burrows that they’re excavated with their pedipalps. Like all desert animals, they’re more active in cooler months, and during the Summer monsoons in Arizona. I encountered this Vinegaroon at the base of the Huachuca Mountains in Arizona near the Mexico boarder while I was herping.
I shot this with my Olympus Micro 4/3 setup. I used my new Olympus 12-40mm zoom lens, which has amazing performance and versatility. Without this turning into a lens review, I use the 12-40mm when photographing larger subjects that don’t need the magnification of my macro lens, while including some of the environment along with the animal. However, if I decide that I want high mag, this lens has such a close minimum focusing distance that it can almost achieve 1:1 mag on its own (FF equivalent), which is amazing for a zoom. 12-40mm has the field of view of 24-80mm on FF. The glass is absolutely razor sharp, so much so that it successfully shoots landscapes with enough resolution to use 64mp hi-res mode on my Olympus E-M5 II body. For lighting I used the cheap, yet adept Neewer mini flash. The real challenge to this shot was diffusing the light. A accomplished this by placing the flash off center on a bracket and using a Fotodiox mini diffuser box. The light rendered was oh so smooth and creamy.
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