Sorry about the title of this blog…I just couldn’t resist!
OK, I really didn’t plan on posting about scorpions again today, and I certainly didn’t plan on uploading another older photo. But I was reminded of a story today and decided to share it here. I’ll get to the story in a minute…
First I need to introduce the photo below of a desert hairy scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis). These scorpions range through the Sonora and Mojave deserts of Mexico and the USA. They are probably the largest species of scorpion in North America, but their venom is not very toxic and so their sting is not considered dangerous. This is a digitized copy of a 35mm slide that was created along with the other scorpion photos I discussed yesterday. It was taken more than 20 years ago.
Now here’s the thing: I don’t remember having any desert hairy scorpions 20 years ago. I remember keeping a number of other species including Vaehovis sp., bark scorpions (Centruroides), fat-tailed scorpions (Androctonus) and death-stalkers (Leiurus quinquestriatus)—but not desert hairys. None of the slides of scorpions that I had scanned were labelled (oops), but they weren’t hard to identify. When I looked at this picture I thought it looked like a desert hairy, but I knew it couldn’t be one because—I’m repeating myself here—I was sure I didn’t have any back then. The scorpion in this picture looks nothing like Vaehovis, a bark scorpion or a fat-tailed scorpion. So I thought maybe it was a death-stalker and my identification skills were just lacking. But I needed to be sure. So yesterday I posted the photo on two websites: Arachnoboards—a discussion forum for people interested in arachnids (spiders and scorpions); and Scorpion Forum and asked the many experts on those sites to help identify it.
All of the responses to my query identified the critter as a desert hairy. Score one for my identification skills and zero for my memory. Apparently I really did have at least one specimen of desert hairy scorpion back then. [As you get older they say your memory is the second thing to go…I don’t remember what the first thing is (Ba-dum-bump!)].
One of the people that responded to my question asked me if someone had sold me the desert hairy as a death-stalker. And that reminded me of my story:
Back around when I took this photo I heard that a local dealer had some “Israeli gold” scorpions (Scorpio maurus). These are a smaller but very interesting species of scorpion that I was particularly interested in keeping and photographing. Their venom is not strong and they aren’t a dangerous species. I gave the dealer a call and went over to pick a couple up. He took me into the basement of his house, took a plastic tub off a shelf and opened it for me. Inside the tub was a seething mass of death-stalkers (Leiurus quinquestriatus)—which are unfortunately also sometimes called “Israeli gold” scorpions. Leiurus are also arguably the most dangerous scorpion on earth with venom approximately as toxic as that of a cobra. He didn’t believe me at first when I told him what he had. But I just happened to have a copy of Scorpions of Medical Importance (by Hugh L. Keegan) in my car. I showed him the descriptions of the two species of scorpions and convinced him of what he had. When he realized that he had been selling Leiurus to pet shops as Scorpio maurus he went a little pale. I suggested that he better start making calls to get them back. Amazingly he did…
And this story illustrates one reason that scientific names are so important.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-4 SLR
Lens: Tamron 90mm F2.5 macro lens
Settings: F16 @ 1/60 sec
Lighting: Vivitar 283 with vari-power module
Film: Fujichrome 50asa or 100asa