Deathstalkers, Leiurus quinquestriatus, are native to the Oriental, Palearctic, and Palearctic regions. Members of the nominal subspeices L. quinquestriatus quinquestriatus are found in northeastern Africa as far west as Algeria and Niger, as far south as Sudan, and as far west as Somalia. Members of the subspeices L. quinquestriatus hebraeus are found throughout the Middle East as far north as Turkey, east to Iran, and south to Oman and Yemen. (Fet, et al., 2000)
Deathstalkers are found in arid and hyper-arid regions of North Africa and the Middle East. They generally reside under rocks or in abandoned burrows of other animals. They also create their own burrows about 20 cm below rocks. (Abushama, 1964a; Abushama, 1964b; Abushama, 1968; Cloudsley-Thompson, 1961; Cloudsley-Thompson, 1965; Hadley, 1974; Levy and Amitai, 1980)
Deathstalkers are large venomous scorpions measuring 80 to 110 mm in length and weigh 1.0 to 2.5 g. They are yellowish in color with brown spots on the metasomal segment V and sometimes on the carapace and tergites. Tergites I and II have 5 carinae. The ventrolateral carinae have 3 to 4 rounded lobes, and the anal arch has 3 rounded lobes. Scorpions have 2 eyes on the top of the head and often 2 to 5 pairs of eyes on the front corners of their head. (Abushama, 1964a; Abushama, 1964b; Abushama, 1968; Cloudsley-Thompson, 1961; Cloudsley-Thompson, 1965; Fet, et al., 2000; Hadley, 1974; Levy and Amitai, 1980)
Little information is available regarding the specifics of development of deathstalkers. However, most scorpions are viviparous. Young receive nourishment in the uterus either through the the embryo and uterine wall similiar to placentals or through active transport if extra-embryonic membranes are present. Young are relatively large when born. Most scorpions molt multiple times before becoming adults, though juveniles look like adults at all instars. (Benton, 1991)
Courtship and sperm transfer in scorpions, including deathstalkers, is a complicated process involving a "romenade à deux." The male approaches a female and grasps her pedipalp chelae with his own chelae fingers. A form of dance then takes place, lasting for several minutes until the male ejects a spermatophore on suitable substrate. In the next stage, the male leads the female to position her genital aperture over the spermatophore, and the female takes up the sperm. Once sperm transfer has been completed, males and females usually separate. (Lourenço, 2000)
Little is known about the specific reproductive behavior of deathstalkers. After a gestation period of 122 to 277 days (average 185), females give birth to 35 to 87 offspring (average 62.7). (Lourenço, 2000)
Specific parental behaviors of deathstalkers have not been studied. However, in close relatives, young scorpions climb onto their mother’s back directly after birth. They remain on their mother's back for the duration of their first instar, taking advantage of their mother's protection. This also helps young regulate moisture. (Benton, 1991)
The lifespan of deathstalkers is not readily available. However, the lifespan of scorpions is variable, ranging from 4 to 25 years. (Lourenço, 2000)
Deathstalkers are nocturnal, which helps manage temperature and water balance, important functions for survival in dry habitats. Many species of scorpions dig burrows in the soil. They have flat bodies, allowing them to hide in small cracks, under rocks and under bark. (Jackman, 1999)
Little information is available regarding home ranges of deathstalkers.
Although scorpions have two eyes on the top of their head often 2 to 5 pairs of eyes on the front corners of their head, they do not have good vision. Scorpions, including deathstalkers, utilize their sense of touch to navigate and hunt, using their pectines and other organs. They have tiny slit-like tarsal sensory organs near the tips of their legs which help detect vibrations in the sand or soil. These organs can help provide information regarding the direction and distance from potential prey. Scorpions may also use substrate vibrations to identify potential mates and reduce violent interactions. (Polis and Farley, 1979; Sissom, et al., 1990)
Scorpions, including deathstalkers, generally consume small insects, spiders, centipedes, earthworms, and other scorpions. Scorpions detect and capture prey using their sense of touch and by utilizing vibrations. They hide under stones, bark, wood, or other objects no the ground where they search for prey or wait in ambush. Once they capture prey, scorpions use their larger pincers to crush and draw prey toward the mouth. (Jackman, 1999)
Deathstalkers are commonly preyed upon members of their own speices and by other scorpions. Other invertebrate predators (e.g. centipedes) and vertebrates also prey on deathstalkers. They have high mortality directly after birth. Mortality is higher in adults than individuals of intermediate age. (Prendini, 2006)
Chlorotoxin originally isolated from venom of deathstalkers is used in cancer research. Research is also being pursued regarding the possible use of other components of their venom in the treatment of diabetes, as channels on which the neurotoxins act have been linked to the regulation of insulin. However, such research is still in its early stages. Scorpions are also good bio-indicators, as they are K-selected equilibrium species that comprise a major group of predatory arthropods in arid ecosystems. Their disappearance often indicates haabitat degradation. Programs to conserve terrestrial invertebrates often target scorpions. (Prendini, 2006; Sontheimer, et al., 2002)
Because of their potent venom, deathstalkers are one of the most dangerous scorpions on Earth. (Gouge, et al., 2001)
Deathstalkers have not been evaluated by the IUCN, US Fish and Wildlife Service, or CITES.
Many species of scorpions are habitat specific and their ranges are restricted. Few species of scorpions receive formal protection, and many may disappear before being described. Scorpions are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and collection for souvenirs and the pet trade. Scorpions could also be vulnerable because of small litter sizes, long generation times, and high mortality of sexually immature females. (Prendini, 2006)
Ahmet Ceceli (author), Rutgers University, John Horsfield (author), Rutgers University, David V. Howe (editor), Rutgers University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
an animal that mainly eats meat
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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