Leiurus quinquestriatus

Geographic Range

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)

Habitat

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)

Physical Description

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)

  • Range mass
    1 to 2.5 g
    0.04 to 0.09 oz
  • Range length
    80 to 110 mm
    3.15 to 4.33 in

Development

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)

  • Development - Life Cycle
  • neotenic/paedomorphic

Reproduction

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)

  • Range number of offspring
    35 to 87
  • Average number of offspring
    62.7
  • Range gestation period
    155 to 227 minutes
  • Average gestation period
    185 minutes

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)

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of deathstalkers is not readily available. However, the lifespan of scorpions is variable, ranging from 4 to 25 years. (Lourenço, 2000)

Behavior

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)

Home Range

Little information is available regarding home ranges of deathstalkers.

Communication and Perception

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)

Food Habits

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)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

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)

Ecosystem Roles

Deathstalkers consume a variety of invertebrates and other scorpions. Deathstalkers are also preyed upon by vertebrates, centipedes, and other scorpions. (Prendini, 2006)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because of their potent venom, deathstalkers are one of the most dangerous scorpions on Earth. (Gouge, et al., 2001)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans

Conservation Status

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)

Contributors

Ahmet Ceceli (author), Rutgers University, John Horsfield (author), Rutgers University, David V. Howe (editor), Rutgers University, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

desert or dunes

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.

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

venomous

an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Abushama, F. 1964. Bioclimate, diurnal rhythms and water-loss in the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus. Entomology Monthly Magazine, 98: 216-224.

Abushama, F. 1968. Observations on the mating behaviour and birth of Leiurus quinquestriatus (H. & E.), a common scorpion species in the Central Sudan. Revue de zoologie et de botanique africaines, 77: 36-43.

Abushama, F. 1964. On the behaviour and sensory physiology of the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus. Animal Behavior, 12(1): 140-153.

Babu, K., M. Ganetsky, A. Sheroff, E. Boyer, S. Bird. 2005. A deathstalker scorpion envenomation in Rhode Island. Clinical Toxicology, 43: 710.

Benton, T. 1991. Reproduction and Parental Care in the Scorpion, Euscorpius Flavicaudis. Behaviour, 117(1-2): 20-28. Accessed November 05, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/pss/4534928.

Cloudsley-Thompson, J. 1961. Observations on the biology of the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus in the Sudan. Entomology Monthly Magazine, 97: 153-155.

Cloudsley-Thompson, J. 1965. The Scorpion. Science, 1: 35-41.

Fet, V., G. Lowe, D. Sissom, M. Braunwalder. 2000. Catalog of the Scorpions of the World (1758-1998). New York, NY: New York Entomological Society.

Gouge, D., K. Smith, C. Olson, P. Baker. 2001. "Scorpions" (On-line). Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, The University of Arizona. Accessed December 15, 2010 at http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/az1223/.

Hadley, N. 1974. Adaptional biology of desert scorpions. Journal of Arachnology, 2: 11-23.

Jackman, J. 1999. "Scorpions" (On-line). Entomology at Texas A&M University. Accessed November 14, 2010 at http://insects.tamu.edu/extension/bulletins/l-1678.html.

Krimm, I., N. Gilles, P. Sautiere, M. Stankiewicz, M. Pelhate, D. Gordon, J. Lancelin. 1999. Structures and activity of a novel alpha-like toxin from the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus habraeus. Journal of Molecular Biology, 285(4): 1749-1763.

Levy, G., P. Amitai. 1980. Arachnida (Fauna Palaestina). Israel: Israel Academy of Sciences & Humanities.

Lourenço, W. 2000. Reproduction in scorpions, with special reference to parthenogenesis. European Arachnology 2000, 1: 71-85. Accessed November 05, 2010 at http://www.european-arachnology.org/proceedings/19th/Lourenco.PDF.

Lourenço, W., J. Qi, J. Cloudsley-Thompson. 2006. The African species of the genus Leiurus Ehrenberg, 1828 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) with the description of a new speices. Boletín Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa, 39: 97-101. Accessed November 05, 2010 at http://s1.e-monsite.com/2009/01/02/5381590leiuruscameroon-pdf.pdf.

Polis, G., R. Farley. 1979. Behavior and ecology of mating in the cannibalistic scorpion, Paruroctonus mesaensis. Journal of Arachnology, 7: 33-46.

Prendini, L. 2006. "Why Study Scorpions" (On-line). Scorpion Systematics Research Group at AMNH. Accessed November 15, 2010 at http://scorpion.amnh.org/page3/page3.html.

Ross, L. 2009. Notes on gestation periods and litter size in the arenicolous buthid scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus (Ehrenberg, 1828) (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, 15/2: 347-352. Accessed November 14, 2010 at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/jvatitd/v15n2/a15v15n2.pdf.

Shalita, E., R. Wells. 2007. Treatment of Yellow Scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) Sting: A Case Report. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 47(5): 616-619.

Sissom, W., G. Polis, D. Watt. 1990. The Biology of Scorpions. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Sontheimer, H., J. Deshane, C. Garner. 2002. Chlorotoxin Inhibits Glioma Cell Invasion via Matrix Metalloproteinase-2. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 278: 4135-4144.

Warburg, M., R. Elias, M. Rosenberg. 1995. Ovariuterus and oocyte dimensions in the female buthid scorpion, Leiurus quinquestriatus H. & E. (Scorpiones: Buthidae), and the effect of higher temperature. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development, 27(1): 21-28.

Warburg, M., R. Elisa. 1998. Differences in the scorpion female reproductive system of Leiurus quinquestriatus H & E (Buthidae), in two populations inhabiting different zoogeographical regions in Israel. Journal of Arid Environments, 40(1): 91-95.