05 January, 2009

Scorpio maurus - A species complex?

Happy New Year!

The Scorpionidae genus Scorpio is presently considered a monotypic genus with one species (Scorpio maurus) , but with 17 subspecies described (Birula's 1910 paper on Scorpio maurus is available online at The Scorpion Files).

There has not been any modern revision of Scorpio, but now Elsa Froufe and co-workers (2008) have done a study to assess genetic diversity within specimens from Morocco. They conclude that the results demonstrate that Scorpio maurus includes highly genetically divergent mtDNA linages within Morocco and that this is a strong indication that Scorpio maurus is a species complex with two or more "hidden" species. More research and testing of all subspecies within Scorpio is necessary before any taxonomical decisions can be made.


The large-clawed scorpion, Scorpio maurus, is a medically important scorpion and yet nothing is known regarding genetic diversity within this species. As a preliminary analysis we determined variation within the cytochrome oxidase 1 (CO1) mitochondrial gene from specimens from Morocco. High levels of genetic diversity were found that presented some geographical coherence. Of the two identified subspecies from Morocco, S. maurus birulai and S. maurus fuliginosus, the latter included genetically distinct lineages (8.0% uncorrected sequence divergence), indicating a detailed morphological and molecular revision is needed for this species.

I have one problem with this article: The authors end the article by saying "Our preliminary results from S. maurus, another scorpion of considerable medical importance, ....". As far as I know, there are no evidence in the medical literature that Scorpio maurus is a dangerous scorpion. It is possible that the authors have adopted the error in the book "Scorpions of Medical Importance" (Keegan, 1980), where the author has mixed information from a primary source (the information concerning the potential danger of Scorpio maurus was actually for Buthus occitanus). Please let me know if anyone has any information about any serious morbidity connected with Scorpio maurus!

Froufe E, Sousa P, Alves PC, Harris DJ. Genetic diversity within Scorpio maurus (Scorpiones: Scorpionidae) from Morocco: Preliminary evidence based on CO1 mitochondrial DNA sequences. Biologia (Bratisl). 2008;63(6):1157-60. [Subscription required for fulltext]

Family Scorpionidae

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