Babycurus gigas factsheet

  • Babycurus gigas
    (Kraepelin, 1896)


    What’s in a name?
    This scorpion has no generally accepted common name yet. But names like‘giant Tanzanian bark or giant Tanzanian red bark scorpion’ are not unimaginable.
    Etymology: This is the largest species in the genus, more than likely the reason of the Latin name gigas, which can be translated as giant or gigantic.


    Distribution
    This scorpion is (uptill know) only known fromTanzania. The type localities areTanga, which is a place near the shore in the North Eastern part of Tanzania, bordering Kenya. The other locality is an area called Usambara which is in the same corner of the country, but located to the North West of Tanga. The northern part of this area harbors the Usambara mountainrange. This distribution pattern suggests to me that it would be more likely to find this species in neighboring countries like Kenya, then in other countries, mainly because of various natural borders like Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa and for instance the Rifiji river system in the South of Tanzania, near the border to Mozambique.


    Natural habitat
    There is much unknown about the natural habitat of this species. The Tanzanian landscape is dominated by savannahs with trees and is alternated by mountainranges and lakes. It has a temperate tropical climate.The climate in the North Eastern part of Tanga is rather warm and humid and the average daytemperature is around 29 Celsius (84 F) , the average nighttemperature is around 22 Celsius (72 F). There are periods of significant rainfall (+ 114 mm per month) in the months March, April, May and October. In the Usambara area the climate is somewhat colder and less humid and the average nighttemperature can drop to 10 Celsius (50 F) in the mountains. It occurs in drier habitats aswell as in mesic environments, it needs to have access to humidity like fog and/ or dew for it’s wellbeing.
    The scorpion hides most of day in their retreats under bark, stones and in the leaflitter. Like most scorpions they become more active at night.


    Venom
    Although this scorpion is from the family Buthidae (Koch, 1837), it is not considered a medical important species. But since it is a large sized buthid, one needs to be careful with this species and should risk to get stung. No sting reports or unreported stingincidents are known to me at this moment. There is no data available on the LD50 value of the venom, I presume because it is considered not medically important.

    Morphological information
    Babycurus spp. look alike and are difficult to distinguish from one another, especially when young. In this case, the identification of adults is rather easy because it’s considerable size of 89-110 mm (3,5-4,5 inches). B.gigas is the largest species in the genus. The pectinal teeth count of B.gigas is 19-24 for both sexes. Overall coloration of the carapace is lightbrown with darker areas near the edge of the carapace and the interocular region. The tergites are more yellowish to lightbrown in juveniles and more light to darkish brown in adults, with a horizontal elliptic shaped dark brown band (or more bands, mostly three, in juveniles) across the dorsal side of the mesosoma.
    Both juveniles and adults bear a pattern of beautiful yellow vertical stripes across the mesosoma. The fingers of the pedipalps and chelicerae are blackish. The basitarsus and tarsus are darker then the other legsegments. The last two caudal segments are darker than the segments I-III. B.gigas has a darkened patella of the pedipalp, which distuingishes them from i.e. B.jacksoni). The moveable finger of the pedipalp shows ten rows of granules, the fixed finger shows nine rows of granules.
    Males are distinguished from the females in this species, because of the males having a bigger manus of the pedipalps or more bulbous chela. Males also have less conspicous keels (less granulate) on the fifth metasomal segment.


    Molts to adulthood and gestation period: unknown

    Keeping in captivity
    The latter of the following information is based on my own experience and that of a few other scorpionenthousiasts. Because this species is not yet commonly kept, good information about the ideal captive conditions is not readily available.This also counts for reliable information about localities. Some are occasionally imported with other scorpions ( i.e. B.jacksoni) from Tanzania.
    In my opinion the (absolute) minimum size for keeping of a pair of adults is around 30x20x20 cm (12x 8x 8 inch). I personally house my single adults in that size enclosure. I keep my specimens separate to avoid the risk of cannibalism. I have no experience in keeping this species in groups. I keep this species at a temperature from 24-28 Celsius ( 75-82 F) in the daytime and around 21 C (70 F) at night. The relative humidity should be around 70-75%, this can be done by keeping one half of the substrate totally dry (or maybe and occasional misting) and the other half moist (not wet to prevent mould or mites). In my opinion, Babycurus gigas in general needs to be kept slightly warmer and a bit more moist then B.jacksoni.
    I mist them well once a week, or twice if necessary. At night they rest for longer periods of time lying in the moist area of the substrate. Humus alone is in my opinion ideal for substrate. Provide a small bottle cap or filmroll cap for water, it is used for drinking and they need moisture for grooming themselves. Provide sufficient ventilation to prevent the air going stale and to create a level of airflow.
    This species breeds without much difficulty in captivity. Average litter size is 12-21. It takes roughly around 170 days until the females are able to reproduce.
    Adults should be fed an appropriate sized prey once a week. In general I feed my scorpions crickets twice a week untill they are passed the third instar. Prey is killed by a (couple of )quick sting(s), depending on the size of the prey item and on the size of the scorpion. I see multiple sting predominantly in younger specimens. Young are voracious predators which in some occasion, actively stalk their prey when detected. Females seem to have a more healthy appetite then the males.
    This species, is in my opinion not suitable for beginning scorpionkeepers. It is an unpredictable species and can react very fast when it is startled or if there is some kind of disturbance. B.gigas is slightly more defensive then B.jacksoni and seems less reluctant to sting. When they are settled in the enclosure, they seem to become less nervous.They are known to play dead (catalepsy) when startled, especially younger specimens use this defensemechanism.


    FAQ


    1. Q: What’s the difference between B.jacksoni and B.gigas?
    A: B.gigas is much larger (An adult B.jacksoni is only a bit larger as an
    instar 5 B.gigas), and has a different coloration of the mesosoma
    and metasoma.


    2. Q: My male doesn’t eat regularly, is it sick?
    A: In general males are not as ‘good’ eaters as females. Sometimes
    they take longer before they catch their prey. Sometimes they even
    get stressed by overactive crickets. Remove the cricket when it is
    not eaten in 48 hours and try again the next week.


    3. Q: My B.gigas died a week after molting/ suddenly died/ was stuck in a
    molt, but I kept the temperature and humidity exactly as described
    above?
    A: This happens sometimes. Scorpions die sometimes even if you are
    keeping them right and if there are not (obvious) external
    indications of sickness. I have had one specimen that died a week
    after it molted succesfully to instar 5 (no parasites, external signs
    of sickness or anomalies where observed under the microscope).


    4. Q: My B.gigas is rather docile and rarely reacts agressive, can I handle
    it?
    A: I think Mike Tyson is also docile for most of the day, but when he
    gets annoyed, he gets annoyed......Seriously, I do not recommend
    handling any scorpion with bare hands.


    5. Q: How can I tell the difference between a male and a female?
    A: The males have a bigger manus of the pedipalp (bulbous chela) and
    have less conspicious keels on the fifth metasomal segment.



    Thanks
    Special thanks to the scorpiologists who gave me valuable reproduction data and who reviewed the factsheet.


    References


    FET,V., W.D.SISSOM, G.LOWE & M.E.BRAUNWALDER. 2000. Catalog of
    the scorpions of the World. The New York entomological society.


    KOVAŘIK,F. 2005. Odchov štíra Babycurus jacksoni (Development of the
    scorpion Babycurus jacksoni in captivity). Akva Tera Fórum 1
    (2):58-62 (In Czech with English summary)


    KOVAŘIK,F. 2000. Revision of Babycurus with description of three new
    species (Scorpiones:buthidae)


    KOVAŘIK,F. 2006. Babycurus gigas Akva Tera Fórum. Tera atlas (In
    Czech).


    LOURENÇO, Wilson R. 2005. Description of three new species of scorpion
    from Sudan (Scorpiones: buthidae) Boletin Sociedad Entomólogica
    Aragonesa, N 36 (2005):21-28.


    PRENDINI, L. 2004. On the scorpions of Gabon and neighboring countries
    with a reassessment of the synonyms attributed to Babycurus
    buettneri Karsch and a redescription of Babycurus melanicus
    Kovarik. Reprinted from California academic of sciences memoir
    28 (2004), pp. 235-276


    M.A.C.Cozijn © 2007 Leiden, The Netherlands.


    Pictures 1-3 (instar 4, subadult female, adult male)

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