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the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Buthidae

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthropoda > Arachnomorpha > Cheliceriformes > Chelicerata > Euchelicerata > Arachnida > Scorpiones (scorpions) > Superfamily: Buthoidea

The buthids are commonly referred to as the thick-tailed scorpions and are generally venomous to people, the most venomous genera being Parabuthus and Buthotus. This is a large and widespread family with over 500 species occurring on all continents except Antarctica. 

Genera indigenous to southern Africa

Parabuthus (Burrowing thick-tailed scorpions)

Parabuthus is an Afrotropical genus with 20 of the 28 species endemic to southern Africa. It occurs in areas of less than 600 mm of rain per annum and is absent in southern Africa from the extreme Eastern Cape, Kwazulu Natal, much of the Free State and the Highveld.

Uroplectes (Lesser thick-tailed scorpions)

About 40 described species of small to medium (30 to 60 mm) scorpions. They are very variable in colour; often brightly coloured yellow, orange, brown and even olive green usually patterned with darker markings. Species can be arboreal occurring under tree bark, in holes in trees or actively hunting on vegetation or wandering about on the forest floor.


Formerly known as Buthotus, occurs from northern South Africa up through eastern Africa and into the Middle East and India. In southern Africa there are 3 species (Northern Cape, Namibia, Limpopo). They occur in sandy areas under stones, logs and make a 60 to 100 mm deep burrow under succulent shrubs.

Karasbergia (Pygmy thick-tailed or Micro thick-tailed scorpions)

One species: Karasbergia methueni, endemic to the Northern Cape (Augrabies Falls and Richtersveld region) and into central Namibia.


Lychas (Bark scorpions, tropical thick-tailed scorpions)

This mainly Indian Australasian genus has 3 African species. One reaches its southern limit in Zimbabwe and in the northern Kruger National Park.



A single species, Afroisometrus minshullae, was a species of Lychas until recently placed into a monotypic genus. The change is taxonomically dubious.


Pseudolychas (False bark scorpion)

Three species are known from the eastern half of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Pseudolychas prefers moist habitats and has benefited from human development, finding Gauteng gardens to its liking. Only about 30 mm long, this scorpion is of no medical importance.


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Text and images by Norman Larsen .