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the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Scorpionidae

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

The scorpionids, with the Liochelidae and Bothriuridae, is one of the thin-tail scorpion families, falling in the superfamily Scorpionoidea. Scorpionidae includes various common names such as the burrowing scorpions, carinated burrowing scorpions and pale-legged scorpions.

While the sting can be painful and some species, for example Opistophthalmus glabrifrons,  are reported to have some unpleasant systemic symptoms, the venom of this group is of little medical importance. 

This family includes some of the largest and most impressive scorpions. The west African Pandinus imperator, The Emperor scorpion, reaches a length of 180 to 200 mm (the Guiness Book of Records cites a record of 229mm). The Asian Heterometrus swammerdami grows to 168 mm (Guiness Book of Records cites 247 and 292 mm), while our local Opistophthalmus gigas from the northern Cape and Namibia attains a length of 160 mm and probably outweighs the liochelid, Hadogenes troglodytes, the world longest scorpion at 210 mm, that weighs 32grams. 

Genera indigenous to southern Africa

The Scorpionidae originated in eastern Gondwanaland with 4 genera occurring in Africa and Asia. Opistophthalmus is the only southern African genus and includes 59 described species with 17 new species in preparation for publication.

Opistophthalmus (burrowing scorpions)

There are 59 described species in southern Africa with 17 new species in preparation for publication. This genus is aptly referred to as the burrowing scorpions as most species do in fact burrow.

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Text and images by Norman Larsen