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Scorpions of Southern Africa

Scorpions of Southern Africa

The species included here are those most likely to be encountered
Leeming, Jonathan

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Scorpions of Southern Africa

Author: Jonathan Leeming
Struik Publishers
Cape Town, 2003
Soft cover, 15x21 cm, 88 pages, numerous colour photos and illustrations


Scorpions have captured the imagination of humans from early times, arousing a morbid interest that no doubt stems from their venomous tendencies.

Misunderstood and persecuted as they often are, it is only relatively recently that we have begun to understand their complex behaviour and biology.

This book, written by one who confesses to a passion for scorpions, describes in layman's terms the way scorpions' bodies are constructed, the strategies that enable them to survive harsh conditions, their use of venom and other aspects of their successful existence over millions of years.

It will help amateur naturalists as well as professionals in associated fields to identify southern Africa's rich scorpion fauna and, it is hoped, will shed new light on these secretive creatures.

The species included here are those most likely to be encountered. Many are readily identifiable with the naked eye and have very wide distributions. As far as possible, the book avoids complicated terminology and includes practical information on where to look for scorpions and how best to handle them.

Author's note:

Although Africa is one of the best places on earth to study scorpions, little information on these much misunderstood and often persecuted creatures is available to the public. This book presents what I hope is an intriguing insight into the behaviour and ecology of southern African scorpions. It will help amateur naturalists as well as professionals in associated fields to identify our rich scorpion fauna and, I hope, will promote a better understanding and tolerance of scorpions.

On the whole, scorpions have a bad reputation. They are regarded as deadly venomous animals to be killed on sight, and it is forgotten that intricate life cycles, complex behavioural patterns and amazing adaptations to the environment lie beyond their apparent venomosity. This book aims to dispel myths about scorpions and replace them with facts about these fascinating creatures. It shows how to distinguish the more venomous from mildly venomous species. It describes how perfectly scorpions are adapted to their habitats and how the different parts of their anatomy are tailored to perform different functions.

Distribution maps are provided for all the species described in the species accounts in this book. They have been produced using museum and private collection records. These distributions are often biased towards well-collected areas such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa and desert regions in Namibia. Other areas such as Mozambique are under-sampled. The distribution maps in the book are intended as guides, not as absolutes.

The study of scorpions involves some very long words. I have tried to avoid complicated terminology, but this is not always possible. Meanwhile, the majority of family and genus names do not have common name equivalents and the different species must be identified using scientific names only. At the back of this book is a glossary that explains less familiar terms.

The classification of southern African scorpions is undergoing vigorous revision and contains more than a few grey areas of taxonomy. I have deliberately omitted species whose classification is unclear. The species included are those most likely to be encountered. In many cases, they have very wide distributions and are easily identified with the naked eye. Habitat is also a reliable guide when differentiating species in the wild. I have given practical information in the species accounts about where to look for scorpions.

Go out and take a look at the many small creatures around you. I have no doubt that after reading this book you will develop a new respect for scorpions and will view them from a fresh perspective.