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Scorpions in Iraq.

Iraq harbours a lot of scorpion species, mainly from the family Buthidae. Of obvious reasons, the scorpion fauna of Iraq has not been investigated properly for several years, and we know little about how many species that live there, and their biology.

At least two species in Iraq have medical sigificance, Androctonus australis (Buthidae) and Hemiscorpius lepturus (Liochelidae). A. crassicauda needs special attention because it lives close to human activities, and I have gotten report that this species is moving into areas with war damaged buildings. It seems to find good hiding places in ruins of bombed buildings and the rubble laying around in damaged areas. This invasive activity will bring in more often in contact with humans.

The following presentation is just meant to be an introductions to the scorpions of Iraq for non-esperts, and some of the information is simplified (but the data are based on scientific sources). The medical information given here is based on whats available in the literature, which is sparse for many of the species. It is therefor important to seek medical support if stung by a scorpion and the situation is unclear!

Scorpions reported from Iraq:

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list! This list is based on whats available in the literature, and it is likely that other species also occur in Iraq.

Updated: 01.11.07.

Family Buthidae:



Androctonus crassicauda

A dangerous species, which can be recognized by the unusual powerful tail. Large scorpions (up to 8 cm), which usually has a brownish-black color. Some small regional color variations have been reported from Iraq.

This is a dangerous species, that cause mortality and serious morbidity in parts of the Middle East, but it will usually not cause life treatening symptoms in healthy adults. Medical assistance should be sought in all cases to be on the safe side.

This species inhabits the walls of houses, stone fences and the rubble from war damaged building, and is therefor especially dangerous because of the high risk of human-animal contact.

The seccond picture shows a container with specimens collected under a tent in a small military camp. A total of 28 scorpions were found under this tent, 17 being A. crassicauda.

Photo by Jesper Thomsen (C)
Buthacus leptochelys

This yellowish scorpion is recognizable by the lack of keels and major structures on the prosoma (the area around the eyes). This species is not considered dangerous, but sting is probably painful.
Picture available in an external site Compsobuthus jakesi

This species was described in 2003, and little information is available. Body color is uniformly yellow to yellowish brown, and adult lenght is 26 to 30 mm. Members of the genus can be recognized by some of the crests on the prosoma being united and forming straight continous lines. No data available on venom potency.
Compsobuthus mathiesseni

Compsobuthus is quite small scorpions (30-50 mm long) which are recognized by some of the crests on the prosoma being united and forming straight continous lines. Color is probably variable (yellow to light brown).

This picture shows a male (males have usually a significantly longer tail than the females). There might be some variation in color and morphology among different individuals/populations. This species is not considered dangerous, but sting is probably painful.

Photo by Jesper Thomsen (C)
Compsobuthus werneri

Compsobuthus is quite small scorpions (30-50 mm long) which are recognized by some of the crests on the prosoma being united and forming straight continous lines. Coloration is variable, dark brown to light yellow.

This species is not considered dangerous, but sting is probably painful.
Hottentotta jayakari

Scorpions in the genus Hottentotta have three distinct keels on the dorsal side of the body (mesosoma). Limited data available for this species, except that it is only known from sorthern Iraq (region of Al-Basrah near the Iranian border). No data available on venom potency.

Photo by Gunther Witt (C)
No picture available Hottentotta mesopotamicus

Scorpions in the genus Hottentotta have three distinct keels on the dorsal side of the body (mesosoma). This species was described from the region of Zakhun in northern Iraq in 2007. Large scorpions (up to 80 mm) with a general reddish to reddish-yellow body color. No data available on venom potency.
No picture available Hottentotta scaber

Scorpions in the genus Hottentotta have three distinct keels on the dorsal side of the body (mesosoma). Limited data available for this species, but it is said to resemble H. saulcyi (third, fourth tail segments and telson dark colored, while the fist three segments are light colored. No data available on venom potency.
No picture available Hottentotta schach

Scorpions in the genus Hottentotta have three distinct keels on the dorsal side of the body (mesosoma). Limited data available for this species. No data available on venom potency.
Hottentotta saulcyi

Scorpions in the genus Hottentotta have three distinct keels on the dorsal side of the body (mesosoma). This species is quite large (up to 70 mm) and has a dull yellow color, with the two terminal segments of the tail with darker coloration (brown).

Little is known about the venom potency of this species, and information is lacking in the medical literature. One source says that this species is less feared by the local peoples than A. crassicauda and H. leprurus. Sting is probably painful.

Photo by Valerio Vignoli (C).
Leiurus quinquestriatus

This species grows up to 10 cm in length, and is usually straw yellow to orangish yellow. This species is very unique in that it has five keels on mesasomal tergites l-ll. With the remaining tergites lll-Vll with the typical three dorsal keels. Pedipalp wise, the tarsus and tibia finger fit perfectly closed together. And the tibia hand is scarcely wider than the closed fingers combined. Metasomal segment V is dark in coloration (this can be weak/absent in adult specimens). This is one of the most dangerous scorpions in the world, and its venom can kill (children and aged are most vulnerable). I have little information about the distribution (and the medical importance) of this species in Iraq, but it is most likely found in southern parts of Iraq.

Photo by Jan Ove Rein (C).
Picture available in an external site Mesobuthus caucasicus

This species is similar to M. eupeus, but is larger. No data available on venom potency.

Mesobuthus eupeus

This scorpion is very common in lowland Iraq. Medium size (40-50 mm) with a dull yellow (or light brown) color.

The venom of this species usually cause a burning pain, but no systemic effects. One report of a case with systemic symptoms exist from Iran, but this case was not serious.

The scorpion in the picture was caught in the Baghdad area.

Photo: Cpt. Shane Stadtmiller (C).

Odontobuthus doriae

This species is of medium size (40-60 mm) with a pale, clear yellow color. It is easily recognized by the very dentate structures on the ventral size of the tail.

No case reports have been found, but a LD50 study show quite low values for the venom, and this is an indication of some venom potency (even though no firm consluions can be made based on such studies). Sting is probably painful.

Photo by Jesper Thomsen (C)
Picture available in an external site Orthochirus iraqus

This is a small blackish scorpion (30 mm in lenght). This genus can easily be recognized by several small depressions on the tail (it looks like the tails has been hit by a shotgun).

This species is not considered dangerous, but sting is probably painful.
Orthochirus scrobiculosus

This is a small blackish scorpion (30 mm in lenght). This genus can easily be recognized by several small depressions on the tail (it looks like the tails has been hit by a shotgun).

This species is not considered dangerous, but sting is probably painful.


Family Liochelidae:

Hemiscorpius lepturus
A dangerous species that is special in that its venom is hemolytic and can cause severe external and internal ulcers. All other scorpions have a neurotoxic venom. It is infamous in Iran, where it cause significant morbidity in some areas, but only anecdontal information is available for Iraq (Pringle (19??) reported that two-thirds of scorpion caused mortalities in Iraq occured in the Mandeli area, where H. lepturus is common and A. crassicauda is rare). More information about this species here.

Photo by Matt E. Braunwalder/Arachnodata (C)


Family Scorpionidae:



Scorpio maurus
There are several subspecies of S. maurus, and the color of this species vary. The bottom picture shows a specimen from Iraq, while the top picture is a specimen from Israel.

This is a harmless species, but sting might be painful.

Bottom photo by 1LT Todd Dillon.


I'm very interested in getting more information about scorpions in Iraq, and the potential medical significance of scorpion stings in this region. Pictures is also of great interest (both scorpion and habitat pictures)! My email is in the bottom of the page.


Jan Ove Rein (C) 2014