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Poisonous animals
 
Cnidarians (Jellyfish, Corals and Anemones)
 
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Genus/Species

 

Androctonus spp., Fat-tailed scorpions

Clinical entries

Species

  1. A. afghanus
  2. A. aleksandrplotkini
  3. A. amoreuxi
  4. A. australis
  5. A. baluchicus
  6. A. bicolor
  7. A. crassicauda
  8. A. dekeyseri
  9. A. eburneus
  10. A. finitimus
  11. A. gonneti
  12. A. hoggarensis
  13. A. liouvillei
  14. A. maelfaiti
  15. A. mauritanicus
  16. A. maroccanus
  17. A. sergenti
  18. A. togolensis

 

A. aeneas = A. bicolor aeneas

Taxonomy

Arachnida; Scorpiones; Buthidae

Common names

Fat-tailed scorpions, Dickschwanzskorpione

Distribution

Androctonus spp.: northern Africa (from Morocco to Egypt in the north and from Senegal to Sudan in the south). From southeast Turkey and Azerbaijan southward to the Arabian Peninsula, eastward through Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan to western India. 

 

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Mauritania
  3. Northern Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia), Middle East (Sinai, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan?)
  4. Northern Africa (southeast Morocco?, Mauritania, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia), Middle East and Asia (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, northwest India
  5. Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
  6. Northern Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea), Middle East (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon?, Syria)
  7. Middle East and Europe (Sinai, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, southeast Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Irak, Iran)
  8. Senegal, Mauritania
  9. Southern Algeria
  10. Iran, Pakistan, northwest? India
  11. Morocco, Mauritania
  12. Algeria, Chad, Niger
  13. Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania
  14. northwestern? India
  15. Morocco, Mauritania
  16. Morocco
  17. Morocco
  18. Northern Togo

 


Fig. 4.34 Androctonus australis

 

 


Map 1. Androctonus spp.


Biology

Pincers slender, but bulbous at the base, metasoma (tail) conspicuously fat. Characteristic are the marked keels, which are located on the top of the individual tail segments. Size: A. amoreuxi 6–9 cm, A. bicolor up to more than 9 cm, A. crassicauda and A. australis up to 10 cm or more. Colouring: A. australis yellow. Pincers, final tail segments and telson often dark. A. crassicauda in various shades of brown from light brown, reddish, greenish or dark brown to black. Pincers and distal joints of the limbs light. A. bicolor dark brown, dark olive, ends of the limbs light. A. amoreuxi yellow or olive-brown.

Nocturnal. Inhabit deserts or semi-deserts, also in mountainous regions (A. hoggarensis up to 2,000 m above sea level) and generally avoid damp coastal areas. Live in regions with stony, hard or sandy ground; also in sand dunes. Usually found under large stones, also close to settlements, and have been known to enter houses.

In Iraq A. crassicauda is a common species that often hides in cracks in clay walls of old houses. A study of the distribution of scorpions in the region of Sfax, Tunisia, showed that A. australis and Buthus occitanus are the commonest species there. Interestingly, it was found that cactus hedges, which are often planted in urban areas in that region to mark boundaries between dwellings, are popular places for A. australis, A. bicolor aeneas and Buthus occitanus to inhabit (Nouira and Ktari 1989). With regard to measures that can be taken to extinguish scorpion populations, it is suggested to remove such cactus hedges in villages and cities (Goyffon et al. 1982).

Risk

Together with Leiurus quinquestriatus, and less so Buthus occitanus, several members of this genus are by far the most dangerous scorpions in North Africa and the Middle East. A. australis and A. crassicauda count among the most dangerous Androctonus species and are regularly the cause of stings. A. bicolor aeneas only rarely causes accidents in Tunisia, but stings from this scorpion must be taken seriously. A. mauritanicus in Morocco is believed to be very dangerous (Goyffon and Chippuax 1984). In animal experiments, the venom of A. australis displayed lower toxicity than that of L. quinquestriatus, but the amounts of venom available in this large species are correspondingly larger.

Androctonus, together with Leiurus and/or Buthus occitanus, is found over wide areas of North Africa and the Middle East. On the basis of epidemiological studies within these areas it is clear that these scorpions are responsible for the great majority of serious cases of envenoming. It is generally the case that the maximum number of accidents occurs during the hot summer months from July to September. The largest risk group for severe envenoming are children under 15 years, as they tend to play outside the house after sunset. As is also known from the New World, envenoming generally takes a more severe course in children than in adults because of the lower body weight of children. They are often stung in the foot while walking barefoot or in the hand when lifting or turning over stones. Stings from these scorpions appear to occur less frequently inside the home, as is the case in Mexico and Brazil, and much more commonly outside around the home. However, in Jordan it is not uncommon for people to be stung in outside toilets. In that country it seems that children in particular are stung inside the house while asleep, as scorpions are drawn to the narrow and dark hiding places offered by the bedclothes (Amr et al. 1988). Extensive culling efforts, such as are undertaken every year in Sfax (Tunisia), do not appear to lead to a permanent decimation of the scorpion population (Jeddi et al. 1988).

Of 717 scorpion stings that were treated during a single year in the hospital in Sfax, 27 patients had to be given emergency care. Of these, 7 children under 15 years died. Study of the scorpions in this region showed that A. australis make up around 70% of the entire scorpion fauna, and Buthus occitanus together with Scorpio maurus (Scorpionidae) approx. 30%. Androctonus bicolor aeneas is only rarely seen. In the cases where the scorpions were brought in by the victims for identification and serious envenoming had occurred, the cause was chiefly A. australis, and in a few cases A. bicolor aeneas. Scorpio maurus was found to cause only painful stings without further consequences (Goyffon et al. 1982). The same publication mentions statistics from the health department of Sfax, according to which in the years 1967–1977 between 1,930 and 3,467 stings were recorded annually, with a mortality rate of 0.3–0.9%.

A study from southern Algeria, in which reports from medical centres over a period of 17 years were collated, cited an incidence of 20,167 stings and 386 deaths (1.9%) (Balozet 1964). It was reported that A. australis was responsible for by far the greatest number of stings and fatal cases of envenoming (no details regarding identification). Alamir et al. (1992) provide more recent data for Algeria, according to which more than 30,000 stings with 200 fatalities were recorded in 1991. A. australis and Buthus occitanus were mentioned as being among the species that caused these stings, but A. australis was blamed for most of the fatalities. In Morocco A. mauritanicus is considered the most significant species medically (Abourazzak et al. 2009).

Together with Leiurus quinquestriatus (now = L. abdullahbayrami), A. crassicauda is considered responsible for most cases of serious envenoming in Turkey (Tulga 1964). In some areas more than 50% of all scorpion stings are caused by this species (Ozkan et al. 2006). A. crassicauda is responsible for the majority of serious scorpion stings in Iraq (Pringle 1960) and also in Jordan it causes cases of severe envenoming. However, in Jordan the incidence of stings caused by A. crassicauda appears to be far lower than that of L. quinquestriatus (Amr et al. 1988).

In Saudi Arabia L. quinquestriatus and A. crassicauda, and to a lesser extent Parabuthus liosoma, are considered the most dangerous species (Goyffon and Vachon 1979). In a study of stings in children in Saudi Arabia, in those cases where the species was identified, Leiurus was responsible for around 70% of cases and A. crassicauda for around 30%. The cases of envenoming caused by A. crassicauda mostly had a mild course (El-Amin 1992).

Literature (biological)

Belfield 1956, Fet et al. 2000, Levi and Amitai 1980, Nouira and Ktari 1989, Kinzelbach 1985, Keegan 1980, Lourenco et al. 2009, Mirshamsi et al. 2011, Vachon 1948a, b, 1966, 1979, Vachon and Kinzelbach 1987

The Scorpion Files

The Scorpion Fauna