• Jaejeong & Jaeah Kim

Six Deadliest Scorpions in the World

We recently posted a scorpion dissection video (which you can check out here), where we explained the anatomy and physiology of these fascinating arachnids. Although many people associate scorpions with danger, only 25 out of ~2,000 known species of scorpions possess venom potent enough to kill humans. Here’s a list of the six deadliest scorpions in the world.

Deathstalker Scorpion: Let's start with the deadliest scorpion of all: the deathstalker scorpion. As suggested by its menacing name, the deathstalker scorpion possesses a powerful venom containing both cardiotoxins and neurotoxins. This scorpion is the only one on this list that poses a serious threat to even the healthiest person, as anyone stung by these little guys will experience excruciating pain as well as a deadly allergic reaction. A deathstalker scorpion sting is often fatal to young children and the elderly, with the primary cause of death being pulmonary edema.

Spitting Thicktail Black Scorpion: This scorpion is one of the biggest species of scorpions, and is the most dangerous scorpion in Southern Africa. Its stinger can deliver ~4.25 mg of venom with the potency of cyanide, enough to kill an adult male human. The spitting thicktail black scorpion is unique in that it has two different types of venom. The first is a ‘warning dose,’ used to ward off potential aggressors. However, if the aggressor does not back down, the scorpion delivers a much more lethal second dose. This powerful second dose is used by the scorpion only in life-or-death situations. Spitting thicktail black scorpions can also ‘spit’ their venom to a distance of up to 3 feet, and have excellent aim.

Brazilian Yellow Scorpion: This scorpion is the most deadly scorpion found in South America. Many people come in contact with these scorpions, and although most cases only result in fever, nausea, sweating, and fast heartbeat, severe cases can lead to hyperesthesia (intense pain & sensitivity of the body), breathing difficulties, stomach cramps, and vomiting. Despite the fact that the Brazilian yellow scorpion only stings in small doses, 3,000 people in South America die from these scorpions’ stings yearly, with children and the elderly being most at risk. To make matters worse, the antivenin for this scorpion’s venom is not very effective, and can often lead to serious allergic reactions.

Yellow Fattail Scorpion: The yellow fattail scorpion has “Androctonus” (or man killer when translated from Greek) as its scientific name, and rightfully so because this species possesses one of the most powerful neurotoxins found in scorpions. This fast acting venom attacks the central nervous system, and can cause paralysis or death (via respiratory failure). If not treated with antivenin, an adult male human can die in a mere 2-7 hours after being stung.

Arabian Fattail Scorpion: this scorpion is a relative of the yellow fattail scorpion, and is found in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East. Whenever there was a military conflict in the Persian gulf, this scorpion was considered a major threat by soldiers on both sides. Due to its menacing appearance, this species commonly represents scorpions in films. Although they do have potent venom, they rely more on their powerful pincers when attacking prey or defending themselves.

Bark Scorpion: This scorpion is the most venomous species of scorpion found in North America, living mostly in Arizona. Bark scorpions possess a powerful neurotoxin that causes extreme pain akin to an electric shock. Severe cases of bark scorpion stings can also show symptoms like vomiting and numbness, and if untreated, bark scorpion stings can lead to death (the survival rate of patients is 1~25%, depending on the age and general health of the patient). Luckily, bark scorpion antivenin is very effective and widespread, so much so that there hasn’t been any bark scorpion casualties in America for the past 40 years.

Although it is highly unlikely that you would come across any of these scorpions in your life, if you are traveling to an area known to inhabit these critters, wear full coverage clothes, stay inside at night, don’t antagonize the scorpion (if you come across one), and remain cautious.


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