Similar burrow architecture of three arid-zone scorpion species implies similar ecological function

Amanda M. Adams, Eugene Marais, J. Scott Turner, Lorenzo Prendini, Berry Pinshow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Many animals reside in burrows that may serve as refuges from predators and adverse environmental conditions. Burrow design varies widely among and within taxa, and these structures are adaptive, fulfilling physiological (and other) functions. We examined the burrow architecture of three scorpion species of the family Scorpionidae: Scorpio palmatus from the Negev desert, Israel; Opistophthalmus setifrons, from the Central Highlands, Namibia; and Opistophthalmus wahlbergii from the Kalahari desert, Namibia. We hypothesized that burrow structure maintains temperature and soil moisture conditions optimal for the behavior and physiology of the scorpion. Casts of burrows, poured in situ with molten aluminum, were scanned in 3D to quantify burrow structure. Three architectural features were common to the burrows of all species: (1) a horizontal platform near the ground surface, long enough to accommodate the scorpion, located just below the entrance, 2-5 cm under the surface, which may provide a safe place where the scorpion can monitor the presence of potential prey, predators, and mates and where the scorpion warms up before foraging; (2) at least two bends that might deter incursion by predators andmay reduce convective ventilation, thereby maintaining relatively high humidity and low temperature; and (3) an enlarged terminal chamber to a depth at which temperatures are almost constant (±2-4 °C). These common features among the burrows of three different species suggest that they are important for regulating the physical environment of their inhabitants and that burrows are part of scorpions’ “extended physiology”.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalDie Naturwissenschaften
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Burrows
  • Extended organism
  • Scorpionidae
  • Temperature gradients
  • Three-dimensional modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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