IN­VERT SPOT­LIGHT

The strik­ing Hot­ten­totta franzw­erneri by Wally Suarez

Animal Scene - - CONTENTS - Text by WALLY SUAREZ Pho­tos by JEF­FREY C. LIM

Hu­mans have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the crea­tures they share the world with, and those that are po­ten­tially lethal to their ex­is­tence are no ex­cep­tion. For in­stance, ven­omous scor­pi­ons re­main rather cap­ti­vat­ing among en­thu­si­asts, in both its ap­pear­ance and its po­ten­tial to cause se­vere pain, if not death.

A scor­pion with po­tent venom, the Hot­ten­totta franzw­erneri was dubbed by A.A. Bir­ula in 1914 as Buthus franzw­erneri, de­rived from a male spec­i­men col­lected by Franz Werner on Béni Ou­nif de Figuig in Algeria, bor­der­ing on Morocco. Bir­ula also came up with the name Hot­ten­totta in 1908, but orig­i­nally as a sub­genus un­der Me­sobuthus. Algeria and Morocco.

De­spite hav­ing been known to sci­ence even from the early 1900s, H. franzw­erneri re­mained one of the most poorly known of scor­pion species. But cap­tive-bred in­di­vid­u­als are chang­ing that, and the world of arach­no­cul­ture is now be­stowed with per­haps one of the most ar­rest­ing species ever made avail­able.

AP­PEAR­ANCE

Hot­ten­totta franzw­erneri is a medium-sized species that grows to a to­tal length of 11 cen­time­ters. The retic­u­lated che­licerae range from yel­low to black, while the cara­pace is also black with red-brown chela on the pedi­palps and tel­son. The chelae have no cari­nae (keels).

The legs are a con­trast­ing yel­low; black-legged pop­u­la­tions have been pre­vi­ously as­signed to sub­species gen­tili, which is now re­garded as a true species.

The cara­pace of H. franzw­erneri is dis­tinctly ru­gose, which is so de­vel­oped that the keels on the head have also been bro­ken down to minute bumps; this char­ac­ter is shared ap­par­ently only by H. ju­daicus, and to some ex­tent, H. The en­tire body is no­tice­ably hir­sute, although the males have been noted to be less so than fe­males. Sex­ing the scor­pi­ons is easy- males have pectines close to one another, while there is a very no­tice­able gap for fe­males.

HABI­TAT

Béni Ou­nif in Algeria is sit­u­ated at an el­e­va­tion of 2,720 me­ters above sea level, char­ac­ter­ized by rocky out­crops from the Morocco, which forms a bor­der to Algeria, these scor­pi­ons were found at an alti­tude of 868 me­ters.

The river­side habi­tats as well as oases sup­port veg­e­ta­tion, dom­i­nated by date palms (Phoenix dactylif­era), which pro­vide an im­por­tant agri­cul­tural crop to lo­cal in­hab­i­tants. Within the leaf ax­ils of these palms, H. franzw­erneri sta­ble con­di­tions.

How­ever, the species can also be found on stony out­crops on the ground, wedged in be­tween gaps, to es­cape the strato­spheric heat and to se­cure po­ten­tial prey. These scor­pi­ons are not known to dig bur­rows. Due to the prox­im­ity of bod­ies of wa­ter, am­bi­ent hu­mid­ity is higher than in the sur­round­ing, more arid habi­tats. An­nual rain­fall is very low, and the area is no­tably hot in the sum­mers but cool dur­ing win­ter.

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