SCORPIONS

Scorpio maurus

Linnaeus, 1758

Today's subject is Scorpio maurus Linnaeus, 1758. The generic name, Scorpio, was the first for the entire order and obviously means "scorpion." The specific name, maurus, is from the Greek root maur- meaning "dark" or "obscure."

Vital Stats:
  • SIZE: < 80 mm
  • ECOMORPHOTYPE: Fossorial
  • VENOM TOXICITY: Low
  • DEFENSE: Strikes defensive posture with outstretched pedipalps. Rarely stings, but snaps rapidly with pincers.
  • FOOD: Small arthropods.
Systematics:

This scorpion is in the family Scorpionidae. Scorpio contains only one species. However, there are between 15 and 20 recognized subspecies of Scorpio maurus. These subspecies are generally based on differences in color and are not easy (sometimes impossible) to distinguish. I think that some of the subspecies represent true species, e.g., S. maurus fuscus and S. maurus palmatus, but without an a detailed revision it is impossible to tell for sure. At one time, all known scorpions were placed in the genus Scorpio. As scholars began to study scorpions more closely, they transferred all but one species out of Scorpio and into other genera.

Original Description: Linnaeus, C. 1758.

Systema Naturae. 10th Edition. Stockholm. Scorpio maurus is essentially the first scorpion described by modern science.

Distribution:

Scorpio maurus is common throughout Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia, and in the Middle East, from Yemen to southern Turkey.

Fun Facts

Scorpio maurus is found in desert climates from north Africa to the Middle East. It escapes the harshenss of the desert by digging a burrow 40-70 cm deep. Scorpions that require burrows for survival, like S. maurus, are called obligate burrowers. The burrows of this species are often found in dense aggregations or "colonies." Each scorpion in the colony digs and maintains its own burrow. Males of this genus have the peculiar habit of producing sounds by rapidly striking the posterior half of their metasoma against the ground. Scorpio maurus, like its relative, Pandinus imperator, does not sting readily, preferring to use its relatively powerful pincers for defense. The sting of S. maurus is considered to be mildly painful and not dangerous to humans. I have had little success rearing this species. The burrow seems to be critical for their survival, but it is a difficult thing to provide or simulate. Most fanciers won't be able to provide them with enough sandy soil to permit burrowing, and even if they could, unless they carefully regulate the temperature and moisture content, I'm not really sure that it would help. The drawback, of course is that the scorpion will not be visible for many days at a time. People normally try to reproduce the surface of the desert from which these scorpions are collected, but we must remember that the scorpions attempt to get away from that environment by burrowing. It makes more sense, then, to simulate the environment of the burrow. It is important to keep the humidity high without allowing the scorpion or substrate to become damp. Use a dish of water to achieve this effect. A narrow, cozy retreat, similar in dimensions


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the Department of the Army or the Smithsonian Institution... or any one else for that matter. – Dr. Scott A. Stockwell


The Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit | Museum Support Center, MRC-534 | Smithsonian Institution | 4210 Silver Hill Rd. | Suitland, MD 20746-2863 USA | Ph: 301-238-1077; FAX: 301-238-3168
Entomology Branch | Walter Reed Army Institute of Research | 503 Robert Grant Avenue | Silver Spring, MD 20910-7500 USA

WRAIR logo  Smithsonian Institution logo © Smithsonian Institution  | Privacy | Terms of use | Contact WRBU