The Namib Naukluft Park, renowned for its diverse and fascinating landscapes, is home to many unique creatures adapted to the arid environment. One such interesting species to grace this national park is Parabuthus villosus, The Black Hairy Thick Tailed Scorpion.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Scorpiones
- Family: Buthidae
- Genus: Parabuthus
- Species: Parabuthus villosus
So, Parabuthus villosus is the scientific name of a specific species within the genus Parabuthus, which is part of the family Buthidae, in the order Scorpiones, class Arachnida, phylum Arthropoda, and kingdom Animalia.
This formidable-looking arachnid is known for its striking appearance and its ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the Namib Desert.
The Black Hairy Thick Tailed Scorpion, with its thick tail and thin pincers, relies heavily on the strength of its venom to subdue its prey. This scorpion has even been known to drink fog in coastal areas of Namibia, a testament to its superb adaptation to the arid environment.
As you explore the Namib Naukluft Park, you may be lucky enough to witness this remarkable scorpion in its natural habitat.
The Black Hairy Thick Tailed Scorpion’s presence in the Namib Naukluft Park contributes to the park’s rich biodiversity and offers an intriguing encounter for those of you who appreciate the extraordinary adaptations of the organisms found in this remarkable region.
The park’s careful conservation efforts help ensure that the Black Hairy Thick-Tailed Scorpion and other unique species continue to thrive in their captivating but challenging environment.
Habitat and Distribution
Namib Naukluft Park
P. villosus can be found in the vast and diverse region of Namib Naukluft Park. As do many arachnids, they make their homes in sandy areas and rocky outcrops.
Aside from the Namib Naukluft Park, Black Hairy Thick-Tailed Scorpions can also be found in other regions within Namibia. Their distribution also extends to neighbouring countries such as South Africa. This wide distribution is due to their adaptability and resilience in various habitats, ranging from sandy dunes to rocky terrains.
Their habitat preferences are primarily influenced by the availability of suitable microclimates and shelter, which are essential for their survival. Their impressive adaptability enables them to survive some of the harshest conditions found in southern Africa, playing an essential role in maintaining the complex desert ecosystem.
As the name suggests, it has a distinct appearance with its dark colour and prominent hair covering its body. This scorpion has a thick tail with a venomous stinger at the end, and relatively thin pincers compared to its tail. The hair on its body contributes to its unique look and its adaptability to the harsh conditions of the Namib Desert.
P. villosus is one of the larger scorpion species found in Namibia, making it easier to spot in the sandy dune areas and dry river banks of the Naukluft Park.
Males and females tend to vary slightly in size. On average, they measure between 11 to 14 centimetres long. The body of this scorpion is well-adapted to its environment, with specialised features that enable it to survive in a predominantly arid landscape.
Behaviour and Venom
The Black Hairy Thick-Tailed Scorpion exhibits interesting behaviour in its natural habitat. It is one of the few scorpions that are truly diurnal, meaning it is active during the day. They are known to be quite aggressive when threatened.
It should be noted that they are generally not aggressive unless provoked. As with most scorpions, their first line of defense is often to use their pincers to deter potential predators. If you are lucky enough to encounter one, please don’t provoke it!
Their venom is known to be highly potent. It contains a mixture of neurotoxins, which can lead to serious symptoms if not treated promptly.
Although the venom of this scorpion can be dangerous to humans, fatalities are rare. It is essential always to seek medical attention if stung by this scorpion to ensure proper treatment and care.
Remember, while the Black Hairy Thick Tailed Scorpion is an intriguing species, it’s best to observe from a safe distance and never provoke these incredible creatures.
Diet and Predators
P. villosus is an opportunistic predator, feeding on a variety of insects, arachnids, and other small animals found in the Namib Naukluft Park. Their diet primarily consists of insects like crickets, locusts, and beetles. However, they also have been known to consume other arachnids, including spiders and occasionally other scorpions.
Though the Black Hairy Thick Tail Scorpion is a skilled predator, it also faces threats from larger animals within the Namib Naukluft Park ecosystem. Birds such as eagles, shrikes, and the Meerkat are some significant predators of Parabuthus villosus. The Meerkat, in particular, is known for its ability to withstand the venomous sting of the scorpion, making it a formidable foe.
Reptiles like monitor lizards and snakes also prey on P. villosus, using their own hunting techniques to locate and capture the scorpions. Despite their formidable defence mechanisms, Black Hairy Thicktailed Scorpions must constantly adapt and seek shelter to avoid becoming a meal for their predators in the harsh environment of the Namib desert.
Reproduction and Lifecycle
The mating process begins with the male scorpion locating a suitable female through sensing pheromones. Once he finds her, he initiates a mating dance known as the “promenade à deux”, which involves both scorpions engaging in a complex series of movements.
During the dance, the male guides the female over a spermatophore he deposited on the ground, which she subsequently takes up into her genital opening. The sperm are then stored in a receptacle within the female until she becomes ready to lay her eggs.
After the female has mated, she carries the fertilised eggs within her body. The gestation period may vary, but can often last for several months. Following gestation, she gives birth to live young called scorplings. These scorplings are initially white and soft-bodied, requiring significant care from their mother in their early stages.
Mother scorpions exhibit a high level of maternal care — the scorplings remain on their mother’s back for one to two weeks, during which time she provides protection and nutrition by secreting a fluid they consume.
Once the scorplings moult to a harder, darker exoskeleton, they leave their mother’s back and venture out on their own.
In their early years, the young scorpions experience a series of moults as they grow into adulthood. The number of moults may vary but generally, after 5 to 7 moults, they reach their adult stage and are fully capable of reproducing themselves.
Conservation and Threats
Although specific conservation status information for this species is limited, measures to protect the biodiversity of the park indirectly benefit the scorpion and its habitat. The park aims to maintain a delicate balance between ecological preservation and economic development, offering various opportunities for sustainable use of resources, which in turn helps support conservation efforts1.
Human interaction with the Black Hairy Thicktail Scorpion is uncommon in the park due to the nature of its habitat. In coastal areas of Namibia, we have observed them feeding on a wide range of prey, indicating its adaptive capabilities2.
As mentioned, if you should encounter them, it is crucial for you to avoid contact, as its venomous sting can be medically significant and potentially fatal.
Educating visitors and locals about the potential risks of these interactions can help reduce negative encounters and contribute to the long-term conservation of Parabuthus villosus, the Black Hairy Thick-Tailed Scorpion in the Namib Naukluft Park.