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How a sand scorpion determines the distance to its prey

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The sand scorpion Paruroctonus mesaensis is able to determine the distance to its prey [1]. Experimental data shows that a sand scorpion, which has a diameter of 5 cm, can accurately determine distances up to 15 cm with an error of about 1 cm. For distances exceeding 15 cm, a scorpion must only move approximately 10 centimeters towards the source before receiving another cue. We have identified a mechanism that would allow a scorpion to match a unique pattern to each distance and developed a neuronal model that performs distance determination up to the precision needed. Generalization to other animals is considered.


  1. Brownell PH: How the sand scorpion locates its prey. Science. 1977, 197: 497-482. 10.1126/science.197.4302.479.

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Correspondence to Roland Utz.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Utz, R., van Hemmen, L. How a sand scorpion determines the distance to its prey. BMC Neurosci 10 (Suppl 1), P114 (2009).

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