Emperor scorpions, Pandinus imperator, are native to west Africa and are predominantly found in forests of Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and the Congo region.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Emperor scorpions are one of the largest species of scorpions in the world, measuring an average of 20 cm in length. They also tend to be heavier than other scorpions, and pregnant females can weigh more than 28 g. The body of the emperor scorpion is shiny black in color with two huge pedipalps (pincers) in the front, four legs and long tail (telson) ending in a stinger. Emperor scorpions have special sensory structures called pectines behind their limbs for sensing features of the terrain. Males usually have larger pectines than females. Like other arthropods, emperor scorpions undergo multiple molts. Their venom is mild and mainly used for defensive purposes; they generally use thier huge claws to kill prey. Like other scorpions, emperor scorpions give off a fluorescent bluish green appearance under UV light.
Range mass: 28 (high) g.
Average length: 20 cm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; venomous
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Emperor scorpions are typically found in hot and humid forests. They reside in burrows and prefer to live under leaf litter, forest debris, stream banks and also in mounds of termites, their main prey. Emperor scorpions tend to live communally and are found in large numbers in regions of human habitation.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Other Habitat Features: estuarine
Emperor scorpions typically eat insects and other arthropods and occasionally hunt down small vertebrates. They commonly eat termites. Adults generally do not kill their prey using their stinger but rather tear apart prey using their powerful pincers. Juveniles, however, depend on their stingers to kill prey.
Animal Foods: mammals; body fluids; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Eats body fluids)
Emperor scorpions eat a variety of insects and arthropods and are preyed upon by by birds, bats, spiders, and other mammals.
Ecosystem Impact: keystone species
Emperor scorpions are eaten by many animals including birds, bats, mammals, and spiders.
- birds Aves
- bats Chiroptera
- spiders Araneae
Life History and Behavior
The eyesight of emperor scorpions is very poor. Their other senses are well developed, with adaptations like the use of body hairs and pectines to detect the surrounding environment and prey.
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; vibrations
Embryonic development of scorpions, including emperor scorpions, occurs in two ways, either apoikogenically or katoikogenically, and these methods differ in the amount of nutrition received from the mother. In apoikogenic development, ova have some yolk. Embryos use the yolk and receive some nourishment from the mother. In katoikogenic development, ova are without yolk, and embryos are nourished through a special feeding apparatus that develops early. Young embryos develop in the female ovariuterus or in specialized diverticula branching from the ovariuterus.
Most scorpions molt multiple times before becoming adults, though juveniles look like adults at all instars.
Emperor scorpions usually live 5 to 8 years in captivity. Lifespan is likely shorter in the wild.
Status: captivity: 5 to 8 years.
Emperor scorpions conduct elaborate mating rituals. Usually, the male grasps the female by pedipalps and engages in a myriad of behaviors including but not limited to sexual stinging and cheliceral "kissing" before depositing the sperm. Like some other arthropods, female emperor scorpions may kill and consume the male after mating has occurred.
Mating System: monogamous
Emperor scorpions breed throughout the year. After a gestation period of on average 9 months, females give live birth to 10 to 12 young. Emperor scorpions reach sexual maturity by 4 years of age.
Breeding season: Emperor scorpions breed throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 10 to 12.
Range gestation period: 9 (low) months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4 years.
Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Emperor scorpions are born defenseless and rely heavily on their mother for food and protection. Newborns are carried on their mother's back until they are old enough to be on their own. Females are generally more aggressive after giving birth.
Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Pandinus imperator
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pandinus imperator
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Emperor scorpions are listed in Appendix II by CITES. Species listed in Appendix II are not threatened, but trade is limited to prevent endangerment by human exploitation. Emperor scorpions are collected for the pet trade and for scientific study.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The sting of emperor scorpions is generally mild and not fatal, but a pinch from their pedipalps is known to be painful.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )
Emperor scorpions are popular in the pet trade, as they are timid and their venom is mild. Many are imported for the pet trade from Ghana and Togo. They are often used in movies because of their spectacular appearance. The venom of emperor scorpions is also studied, as it is abundant in interesting peptides. A molecule called scorpine has been isolated from the venom of Emperor scorpines. The scorpine molecule seems to have anti-malarial and anti-bacterial qualities.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education
The emperor scorpion, Pandinus imperator, is a species of scorpion native to rainforests and savannas in West Africa. It is one of the largest scorpions in the world and lives for 6–8 years. Its body is black, but like other scorpions it glows pastel green or blue under ultraviolet light. It is a popular species in the pet trade, and is protected by CITES.
The emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is one of the largest species of scorpion in the world, with adults averaging about 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length and a weight of 30 g. However, some species of forest scorpions are fairly similar to the emperor scorpion in size, and one scorpion, Heterometrus swammerdami, holds the record for being the world's largest scorpion at 9 inches (23 cm) in length. The large pincers are blackish-red and have a granular texture. The front part of the body, or prosoma, is made up of four sections, each with a pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are comb-like structures known as pectines, which tend to be longer in males than in females. The tail, known as the metasoma, is long and curves back over the body. It ends in the large receptacle containing the venom glands and is tipped with a sharp, curved stinger. Their sting is categorized as mild (similar to a bee sting) to severe on humans depending on the species. Sensory hairs cover the pincers and tail, enabling the emperor scorpion to detect prey through vibrations in the air and ground.
Habitat and distribution
The emperor scorpion is an African rainforest species, but also present in savanna. It is found in a number of African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
Conservation and human impact
- UNEP-WCMC. "Pandinus imperator (Koch, 1841)". UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Manny Rubio (2000). "Commonly Available Scorpions". Scorpions: Everything About Purchase, Care, Feeding, and Housing. Barron's Educational Series. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-7641-1224-9.
The emperor scorpion can reach an overall length of more than 8 inches (20 cm). It is erroneously claimed to be the largest living scorpion in the world. However, some species of Forest Scorpions are its equal. [...] Emperor scorpions have the same venom as a bee.The Guinness Book of Records claims a Forest Scorpion native to rural India, Heterometrus swammerdami, to be the largest scorpion in the world (9 inches [23 cm]).
- "Scorpion Emperor Care Sheet". Petco. 2004. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Emperor Scorpion". The Animal Information Centre. March 2005.
- "Emperor Scorpion". The Big Zoo. March 2005.
- Emperor scorpion media at ARKive Accessed October 20, 2011.
- Rod Preston-Mafham & Ken Preston-Mafham (1993). The Encyclopedia of Land Invertebrate Behaviour. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-16137-4.
- "Scorpion Systematics Research Group". American Museum of Natural History. November 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Fernando Z. Zamudio, Renaud Conde, Carolina Arévalo, Baltazar Becerril, Brian M. Martin, Hector H. Valdivia & Lourival D. Possani (1997). "The mechanism of inhibition of ryanodine receptor channels by imperatoxin I, a heterodimeric protein from the scorpion Pandinus imperator". Journal of Biological Chemistry 272 (18): 11886–11894. doi:10.1074/jbc.272.18.11886. PMID 9115249.
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