02 May, 2016

New information on the "giant" scorpions of West Africa protected by Cites

Very large scorpions have been reported from West Africa since the 19th century. Large size and docile behavior made these "gentle giants" popular in the pet trade for many years, causing them to be put on the CITES list, Appendix II in 1996 because their vulnerable status caused by exportation for the pet trade, especially to Europe, the USA and Japan.

The taxonomy and the distribution of the "giant" scorpions has been little known. In the beginning, only Pandinus imperator (C. L. Koch, 1841) was known. I recent years, investigations have added four more species in the "giant scorpions of West Africa" group: Pandinopsis dictator Pocock, 1888, Pandinus gambiensis Pocock, 1900, Pandinus roeseli (Simon, 1872) and Pandinus ulderigoi Rossi, 2014.

Andrea Rossi has now published a paper presenting new information on some of the species mentioned above and an identification key for the "giant" species is also presented. Rossi also recommend that Pandinus ulderigoi Rossi, 2014 is added to the CITES protection list (the other species are already protected by CITES).

Discoveries of new species of giant scorpion (more than 14 cm in total length) are considered extremely rare. Among the largest scorpions in the world there are some species from West Africa, very popular in the pet trade and, for this reason, protected by the Washington Convention (CITES). Besides the three well-known protected species – Pandinus imperator (C. L. Koch, 1841), Pandinopsis dictator (Pocock, 1888) and Pandinus gambiensis Pocock, 1900 – a fourth giant species, Pandinus ulderigoi Rossi, 2014, was recently described from a supposedly unknown locality in the Central African Republic. Unpublished notes, just discovered, allow clarification of the exact type locality of this species. Besides newly examined material from the type locality, representative of both sexes, allows better definition of the characters of this species including its unusual trichobothrial pattern. A fifth giant species, Pandinus roeseli (Simon, 1872), recently revalidated from Pandinus imperator, is automatically included among the protected species. In light of the vulnerable status, the similar general appearance, the possibly restricted and continuous distribution with regards to the four protected species as well as the recent import suspension of P. imperator from Ghana, P. ulderigoi should be added to the Pandinus species protected by the Washington Convention.

Rossi A. Clarification of the type locality of Pandinus ulderigoi with notes on the scorpions protected by CITES (Scorpiones: Scorpionidae). [Proceedings of the 28th European Congress of Arachnology, Torino, 2014 August 24-29]. Arachnologische Mitteilungen. 2015;49:47-54. [Open Access]

Thanks to Andrea Rossi for sending me his article!

Family Scorpionidae

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