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Deathstalker ST 07.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Scorpiones
Family: Buthidae
Genus: Leiurus
L. quinquestriatus
Binomial name
Leiurus quinquestriatus
  • Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus
  • Leiurus quinquestriatus quinquestriatus

The deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus) is a species of scorpion, a member of the family Buthidae. It is also known as the Palestine yellow scorpion,[1][2][3][4] Omdurman scorpion, Naqab desert scorpion and by many other colloquial names, which generally originate from the commercial captive trade of the animal. To eliminate confusion, especially important with potentially dangerous species, the scientific name is normally used to refer to them. The name Leiurus quinquestriatus roughly translates into English as "five-striped smooth-tail".[5] In 2014, the subspecies L. q. hebraeus was separated from it and elevated to its own species Leiurus hebraeus.[6] Other species of the genus Leiurus are also often referred to as "deathstalkers". Leiurus quinquestriatus is yellow, and 30–77 millimetres (1.2–3.0 in) long, with an average of 58 mm (2.3 in).[7]

Geographic range

Leiurus quinquestriatus can be found in desert and scrubland habitats ranging from North Africa through to the Middle East. Its range covers a wide sweep of territory in the Sahara, Arabian Desert, Thar Desert, and Central Asia, from Algeria and Mali in the west through to Egypt, Ethiopia, Asia Minor and the Arabian Peninsula, eastwards to Kazakhstan and western India in the northeast and southeast.


A deathstalker eating a cricket in captivity

Neurotoxins in L. quinquestriatus venom include:


The deathstalker is one of the most dangerous species of scorpions.[8][9] Its venom is a powerful mixture of neurotoxins, with a low lethal dose.[10] While a sting from this scorpion is extraordinarily painful, it normally would not kill a healthy adult human. However, young children, the elderly, or infirm (such as those with a heart condition and those who are allergic) are at much greater risk. Any envenomation runs the risk of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to the venom. A study from Israel shows a high rate of pancreatitis following envenomation.[11] If a sting from Leiurus quinquestriatus does prove deadly, the cause of death is usually pulmonary edema.

Antivenom for the treatment of deathstalker envenomations is produced by pharmaceutical companies Twyford (German)[12] and Sanofi Pasteur (French),[13] and by the National Antivenom and Vaccine Production Center in Riyadh.[14] Envenomation by the deathstalker is considered a medical emergency even with antivenom treatment, as its venom is unusually resistant to treatment and typically requires large doses of antivenom.[15]

In the United States and other countries outside of the typical range of the deathstalker, there is the additional complicating factor that none of the existing antivenoms are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (or equivalent agencies) and are only available as investigational drugs (INDs). The US Armed Forces maintain an investigational drug application[16] for the AVPC-Riyadh antivenom in the event of envenomation of soldiers in the Gulf War theater of operations, and the Florida Antivenin Bank, managed by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, maintains Sanofi Pasteur's Scorpifav antivenom for the deathstalker.[17]


Deathstalker in Negev Desert, Israel

A component of the deathstalker's venom, the peptide chlorotoxin, has shown potential for treating human brain tumors.[18] There has also been some evidence to show that other components of the venom may aid in the regulation of insulin and could be used to treat diabetes.[citation needed]

In 2015 clinical trials were beginning of the use of chlorotoxin with a fluorescent molecule attached as brain tumour "paint" (BLZ-100), to mark cancerous cells in real time during an operation. This is important in brain cancer surgery, where it is vital both to remove as many cancerous cells as possible, but not to remove healthy tissue necessary for brain functioning. In preclinical animal trials the technique could highlight extremely small clusters of as few as 200 cancer cells, compared to the standard use of MRI, with a lower limit in excess of 500,000.[19]


Possession of L.quinquestriatus may be illegal or regulated in countries with laws prohibiting the keeping of dangerous animals in general. Jurisdictions are increasingly and explicitly including L.quinquestriatus in laws requiring permits to keep animals which are not usual pets, or restricting possession of dangerous animals, and in some cases have prohibited the keeping of L.quinquestriatus save by licensed zoos and educational facilities.

In several jurisdictions departments of fish and wildlife require permits for many animals,[20][21] and a number of cities and municipal governments have prohibited their possession in their bylaws.[22][23][24][25][26]


  1. ^ Minton, Sherman A. (1974). Venom diseases. Thomas. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-398-03051-3. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  2. ^ The Staff of Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (1993). Entomology abstracts, Volume 24, Issues 10-12. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Werness, Hope B. (2004). The Continuum encyclopedia of animal symbolism in art. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 476. ISBN 978-0-8264-1525-7. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  4. ^ Young, Mark (1998). The Guinness Book of World Records 1998. Bantam Books. p. 768. ISBN 978-0-553-57895-9. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Respectively from Greek leios "smooth" and oura "tail", and Latin quinque "five" and striatus "striated, grooved, fluted".
  6. ^ Lowe G, Yagmur EA, Kovarik F. A Review of the Genus Leiurus Ehrenberg, 1828 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) with Description of Four New Species from the Arabian Peninsula. Euscorpius. 2014 (191):1-129. PDF.
  7. ^ Amr, Zuhair S.; El-Oran, Ratib (1994). "Systematics and distribution of scorpions (Arachnida, Scorpionida) in Jordan". Italian Journal of Zoology. 61 (2): 185–190. doi:10.1080/11250009409355881.
  8. ^ "The World’s Most Dangerous Scorpions" Planet Deadly.
  9. ^ "Not so scary scorpions" National Science Foundation.
  10. ^ Lucian K. Ross (2008). "Leiurus quinquestriatus (Ehrenberg, 1828)" (PDF). The Scorpion Files. Retrieved September 17, 2011.
  11. ^ Sofer S, Shalev H, Weizman Z, Shahak E, Gueron M (1991). "Acute pancreatitis in children following envenomation by the yellow scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus". Toxicon. 29 (1): 125–8. doi:10.1016/0041-0101(91)90045-s. PMID 2028471.
  12. ^ "Scorpion Antivenom Twyford (North Africa)". MAVIN. Poison Centre Munich. January 15, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  13. ^ "Scorpifav". MAVIN. Poison Centre Munich. January 15, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  14. ^ "Saudi National Antivenom and Vaccine Production Center". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  15. ^ Goldfrank, Lewis R. (2006). Goldfrank's toxicologic emergencies. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 2064. ISBN 978-0-07-147914-1. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  16. ^ Eric A. Shalita; Ryan D. Wells (2007). "Treatment of yellow scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) sting: a case report". Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 47 (5): 616–619. doi:10.1331/JAPhA.2007.07051. PMID 17848352.
  17. ^ "Antivenom: Species Covered" (PDF). Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. January 2009. #40. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  18. ^ Liliana Soroceanu; Yancey Gillespie; M. B. Khazaeli; Harald Sontheimer (1998). "Use of chlorotoxin for targeting of primary brain tumors". Cancer Research. 58 (21): 4871–4879. PMID 9809993.
  19. ^ O'Brien, Alex (10 September 2015). "How to light up a tumour - Alex O'Brien" – via
  20. ^ "Appendix: Exceptions to unrestricted wild animal list" (PDF). Wild Bird and Animal Importation and Possession. Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. August 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 23, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  21. ^ In the UK a licence is required under the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act
  22. ^ "Ordinance No: 07-02. Public Nuisance Ordinance" (PDF). Town of Morrison, Brown County, Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  23. ^ "Licensing of dogs and cats; regulation of animals" (PDF). Village of Pulaski, Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 11, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  24. ^ "Public Health and Welfare" (PDF). City of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 11, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  25. ^ "Animal Ordinances Revision as of 4/11/05 passed at 4/11/05Council Mtg" (PDF). City of Brooklyn, Ohio. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 21, 2010. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  26. ^ "Animal Ordinance Draft". Town of Rockland, Brown County, Wisconsin. November 28, 2007. Archived from the original (DOC) on March 15, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.

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