01 June 2016

Arabian Fat-tailed Scorpion in Dhahran – Record by Paul Wells

Paul Wells photographed an Arabian fat-tailed scorpion Androctonus crassicauda in Dharan recently and kindly sent me his photos and allowed me to use them on my website. I have personally only seen this species once but they are probably quite common if you look after dark with an ultra violet light. The Arabian fat-tailed scorpion is a medium sized scorpion measuring about 10 centimetres in length and is a formidable nocturnal predator, foraging opportunistically for small insects, spiders and various other prey items that come within easy reach. It has a thick, powerful tail that is equipped with a sting capable of injecting potentially lethal venom and is one of the three most poisonous species of scorpion in the world. The venom, which is injected by the sting, is a powerful neurotoxin, which affects the function of nerve cells and the nervous system and is poisonous to a wide range of animals, including humans and other mammals as well as birds. The body is divided into many segments and has several pairs of modified appendages, including characteristic, claw-like pedipalps which are used in defence and for restraining as well as crushing prey. The pedopalps and tail of the Arabian fat-tailed scorpion have many spiny, sensory hairs, called ‘setae’, while hairs and bristles also cover the soles of the feet. They are usually reddish-brown in colour but can vary between brown & black, with dark, raised keels on several parts of the body giving a rough and grainy appearance. The Arabian fat-tailed scorpion is found in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, including the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Turkey. It typically inhabits desert environments where it shelters during the day in burrows excavated in the sand; however, it is also often found hiding under wood, loose stones and rubble, in cracks between bricks, and inside derelict houses. During the mating season, the male Arabian fat-tailed scorpion will abandon its burrow in search of a mature female and when it finds one it will grasp her by the pedipalps and leads a complex courtship ritual. They give birth to live young with a littler size of 30 to 46 young, which climb onto the back of the female and remain there for several days.