Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Back resists wear and tear: desert scorpion

The exoskeleton of the desert scorpion resists wear due to multiple coupling effects of surface morphology, material, and flexibility.

  "The desert scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus), which is a typical animal dwelling in sandy deserts, is taken as the research object. Generally, most deserts have strong windy conditions, but scorpions, which are subjected to such blustery conditions, only suffer minor scratches, proving that they have developed high wear resistance ability. The adaptability of desert scorpion is attributed to the natural selection, which happened over millions of years of evolution. Previous studies on the desert scorpion showed that the dorsal surface of mesosoma was the major area subjected to sand erosion. The mechanism of its sand erosion resistance was investigated. The anti-erosion trend characteristics and mechanism of desert scorpion’s surface under the dynamic effects of gas/solid mixed media were studied, especially the comprehensive influence of surface morphology, microstructure, creature flexibility and many other factors were studied also. The results showed that erosion resistance of desert scorpion back is a result of multiple coupling effects. Surface morphology, material, and flexibility are biological coupling elements which play an important role in resisting erosion for the back of desert scorpion." (Han et al. 2010:S50-S51)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Han Z; Zhang J; Ge C; Lü Y; Jiang J; Liu Q; Ren L. 2010. Anti-erosion function in animals and its biomimetic application. Journal of Bionic Engineering. 7(Supplement): S50-S58.
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Leiurus is a genus of scorpion belonging to the family Buthidae. The most common species, L. quinquestriatus, is also known under the vernacular name Deathstalker. It is distributed widely across North Africa and the Middle East, including the western and southern Arabian Peninsula and southeastern Turkey. At least one species occurs in West Africa (northern Cameroon).


The genus was introduced in 1828 by C.G. Ehrenberg (in Hemprich & Ehrenberg 1828),[1] originally as a subgenus of the genus Androctonus. It was finally elevated to genus rank by M. Vachon in 1949.[2] The genus was long considered to be monotypic, containing a single species, L. quinquestriatus, but research since 2002 has shown that there are indeed several species.[3]


Currently five species are recognized within this genus,[4] but their validity is under discussion. F. Kovařík (2007) suspected that L. jordanensis and L. savanicola are possible synonyms of L. quinquestriatus.[5]

General characteristics[edit]

Members of Leiurus are generally moderately sized scorpions that show a typical buthid habitus with gracile pedipalp chelae and a slender metasoma. The vesicle is bulbous and proportionally large in some species. The cephalothorax and mesosoma shows distinct granulation. Characteristically the tergites of the mesosoma bear five distinct, longitudinal carinae (ridges). The base color is generally yellow with brown to blackish areas extending over various parts of the animal, depending on species.[6]


The venom of L. quinquestriatus is among the most potent scorpion toxins. It severely affects the cardiac and pulmonary systems. Human fatalities, often children, have been confirmed by clinical reports.[7] The median lethal dose of venom (LD50) for this species was measured at 0.16 - 0.50 mg/kgmice.[8]
The toxicity of the other species is also potentially high to life-threatening, but reliable data are currently not available.


Most species live in semi-arid to arid regions, including the Sahara and Arabian deserts. At least one species occurs in savannah environment. Sparsely vegetated and sandy or rocky substrates are preferred. The scorpions live in shallow burrows in sand or beneath rocks.

In captivity[edit]

Members of the genus Leiurus are often bred in captivity and traded. Due to their extreme toxicity, keeping these species is strictly recommendable to very experienced and/or professionally trained people.

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