Evolution and Systematics
Neurotoxins in scorpion venom incapacitate prey by interfering with the transmission of impulses in neurons.
"Peptide toxins found in scorpion venom interact with sodium channels in nervous and muscular systems -- and some of these sodium channels communicate pain, says Prof. Gurevitz. 'The mammalian body has nine different sodium channels of which only a certain subtype delivers pain to our brain. We are trying to understand how toxins in the venom interact with sodium channels at the molecular level and particularly how some of the toxins differentiate among channel subtypes.
"'If we figure this out, we may be able to slightly modify such toxins, making them more potent and specific for certain pain mediating sodium channels,' Prof. Gurevitz continues. With this information, engineering of chemical derivatives that mimic the scorpion toxins would provide novel pain killers of high specificity that have no side effects…some toxins have evolved with the capability to directly affect mammalian sodium channel subtypes whereas others recognize and affect sodium channels of invertebrates such as insects…
"Using an approach called 'rational design' or 'biomimicry,' Prof. Gurevitz is trying to develop painkillers that mimic the venom's bioactive components. The idea is to use nature as the model, and to modify elements of the venom so that a future painkiller designed according to these toxins could be as effective as possible, while eliminating or reducing side effects." (Science Daily 2010)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- 2010. Pinch away the pain: scorpion venom could be an alternative to morphine. Science Daily [Internet],
- Zhang Z; Karbat I; Cohen L; Scheuer T; Gordon D; Gurevitz M; Catterall WA. 2010. Mapping the β-scorpion toxin receptor site on voltage-gated sodium channels. Biophysical Journal. 98(3): 108a-109a.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:756
Specimens with Barcodes:532
Species With Barcodes:81
Buthidae is the largest family of scorpions, containing about 80 genera and over 800 species as of mid-2008. Its members are known as, for example, fat-tailed scorpions and bark scorpions. There are a few very large genera (like Ananteris, Centruroides, Compsobuthus or Tityus), but also a high number of species-poor or monotypic ones. New taxa are being described at a rate of several to several dozen new species per year. They occur in the warmer parts of every major landmass on Earth, except on New Zealand. Together with the Microcharmidae, the Buthidae make up the superfamily Buthoidea. The family was established by Carl Ludwig Koch in 1837.
Some Buthidae are of medical importance, and the sting of a few can kill humans. In dead specimens, the spine beneath the stinger, characteristic for this family, can be observed.
Few Buthidae scorpions are among the larger scorpions; on average the members of this family are mid-sized tending towards smallish. Microtityus and Microbuthus barely reach 2 cm (0.8 in). The largest members are found among Androctonus (fattail scorpions), Apistobuthus, and Centruroides; and can reach a dozen cm (approximately 5 inches). Most of them have between two and five pairs of eyes. Some resemble Vaejovidae. Chaerilidae and Chactidae have one pair of eyes at most, and the former show a yellowish spot between and to the rear of these.
Their vernacular name refers to the thick tails found in many Buthidae, especially in the Old World. The pedipalps on the other hand tend to be weak, slender and tweezer-like. Members of Buthidae are generally rather cryptically colored, quite uniformly ochre to brown, but some are black or (like Centruroides and Uroplectes) more vividly colored. More conspicuous patterns and shapes occur e.g. in Isometrus or Lychas.
Toxicity and relationship with humans
A handful of sometimes species-rich genera – fattail scorpions (Androctonus), Centruroides, Hottentotta,[Note 1] Leiurus, Parabuthus and Tityus – are notorious for their strong venom. Human fatalities have been recorded from fewer than two dozen species; identification of e.g. a particular Tityus is likely problematic and detailed data on the venom exists only for a small fraction of the Buthidae (see BmKAEP from the venom of Mesobuthus martensii, for an example).
- Afghanobuthus Lourenco, 2005
- Afroisometrus Kovarik, 1997
- Akentrobuthus Lamoral, 1976
- Alayotityus Armas, 1973
- Androctonus – fattail scorpions
- Buthoscorpio (includes "Stenochirus" jinnahii and "S." rahmatii)
- Centruroides – typical bark scorpions
- Hoplocystis (a nomen dubium)
- Mesobuthus (paraphyletic?)
- Orthochirus (includes Paraorthochirus and Simonoides)
- †Uintascorpio (Eocene, Green River Formation)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Buthidae.|
- Teruel, Rolando & Fet, Victor (eds.) (2005): Snyopsis of the described scorpions of the world - Family Buthidae. Version of 3/7/2005. Retrieved June 25, 2008.
- Rein, Jan Ove (2008): The Scorpion Files - Buthidae. Retrieved June 25, 2008.
- Santiago-Blay, Jorge A.; Soleglad, Michael E.; Fet, Victor (2004). "A redescription and family placement of Uintascorpio Perry, 1995 from the Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation (middle Eocene) of Colorado, USA (Scorpiones: Buthidae)". Revista Ibérica de Aracnología 10: 7–16. ISSN 1576-9518.
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