|DEATHSTALKER SCORPION (Leiurus quinquestriatus)
Type of animal: Scorpions are arthropods, meaning they are invertebrates with exoskeletons (skeletons on the outsides of their bodies). They are in the phylum “arthropoda” which means arthro = jointed, poda = foot, or jointed foot animals. Almost all arthropods lay eggs, but scorpions give birth to live young after the eggs hatch inside the mother. Scorpions first appeared in the Silurian Period (between 417 and 443 million years ago).
Habitat: The deathstalker scorpion is found in desert areas of North Africa and Asia. They live under rocks, in crevices, or may excavate their own shelters, up to 20 cm deep.
Prey: Scorpions are carnivorous and will eat anything they can catch – from insects to snakes and rodents. They grab prey with their pedipalps (claws), and then sting it with their tails. They chew their prey with toothed chelicerae, while it is broken down by digestive juices. Then they spit out the hard parts and swallow the rest. Eating can take hours.
Predators: Despite their venom, many animals still prey on scorpions. Some have evolved immunity to their toxins, others have learned to bite or tear the stinger off quickly when they are caught. Their major predators are birds (owls especially), lizards, snakes and frogs. Even other scorpions can pose a threat.
Description: Leiurus grows to 110 cm and 2.5 grams. It is the most toxic of all known scorpion species. It produces a neurotoxin that can cause heart and breathing difficulty and failure, leading to death. This nocturnal species hides, well-camouflaged, in the light of day, and comes out to feed at night. They can survive temperatures of up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees F).
Life Cycle: The deathstalker scorpion mates and the female carries the eggs within her body for 5 – 7 months before giving birth to live young. She may have between 12 and 100 babies at one time. As soon as they are born, the young scorpions climb onto the mothers back. For up to 50 days they will stay here. They don’t eat or drink anything except for the nutrients already in their own bodies and moisture that is transferred through their mother’s cuticle (skin) to their own skin. When they are ready to molt and change to a tougher cuticle for the first time, they leave their mother’s protection and go out on their own. They will molt several times before becoming fully grown and spend most of their time alone unless mating.