The knowledge of the scorpion fauna of Iraq and its geographical distribution is limited. Our review reveals the presence in this country of 19 species belonging to 13 genera and five families: Buthidae, Euscorpiidae, Hemiscorpiidae, Iuridae and Scorpionidae. Buthidae is, with nine genera and 15 species, the richest and the most diverse family in Iraq. Synonymies of several scorpion species were reviewed. Due to erroneous identifications and locality data, we exclude 18 species of scorpion from the list of the Iraqi fauna. The geographical distribution of Iraqi scorpions is discussed. Compsobuthus iraqensisAl-Azawii, 2018, syn. nov. is synonymized with C. matthiesseni (Birula, 1905).
The scorpion fauna of Iraq is one of the least known in the Middle East.The fauna and geographical distribution of scorpions in Iraq have not been comprehensively investigated. Based on available data from the literature, it appears that several independent researchers collected specimens from various provinces of Iraq. The records of some of the identified scorpion species and their distribution are dubious and unclear, which requires further verifications. In addition, their taxonomy may need to be adjusted based on current systematic revisions. For instance, taxonomy of members of the genera Androctonus, Compsobuthus, Mesobuthus and Orthochirus still presents the main challenge despite the efforts of many researchers. The aim of this work is to review the literature on the research history of the Iraqi scorpions and provide an updated checklist for the scorpion fauna of Iraq and their geographical distribution.
Materials and methods
For this study, we reviewed publications by Simon (1880), Kraepelin (1899), Penther (1912), Birula (1910, 1918), Corkhill (1930), Kennedy (1937), Whittick (1955), Pringle (1960), L. Khalaf (1962), K. Khalaf (1963), Vachon (1966), Kovařík (1992, 2004), Lourenço & Pézier (2002), Lourenço & Qi (2007), Sissom & Fet (1998), Fet et al. (2009), Yağmur et al. (2013), Al-Azawi (2017), Al-Khazali & Yağmur (2019), Kovařík et al. (2019b), Tahir et al. (2014) and Kachel (2020). The records given in these papers were reviewed and compared with current scorpion systematics. In addition, the administrative provinces to which the records found in those publications belong were determined.
Abbreviations of specimen repositories
AZMM: Alaşehir Zoological Museum, Celal Bayar University, Manisa, Turkey. BMNH: Natural History Museum, London, UK. FKCP: František Kovařík Collection, Praha, Czech Republic. MHNG: Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, Geneva, Switzerland. MNHN: Muséum National d´Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. ZISP: Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia. ZMB: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Germany. ZMH: Zoologisches Institut und Zoologisches Museum, Universität Hamburg, Germany.
Geography of Iraq
The geographical distribution of scorpions in Iraq has been neglected as previous studies focused only on the systematics. Iraq, covering about 437000 km2, can be divided into 18 provinces (Fig. 1). For the purpose of understanding the preferred environmental conditions and geographical distribution of each scorpion species, the 18 Iraqi provinces are grouped into four geographical regions based on their temperature, climate diversity and geographical topology (Mohammed et al. 2017): MR (Mountainous Region; Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah), UR (Undulated Region: Mosul or Ninevah, Kirkuk and Diyala), DR (Desert Region: Al Anbar, Baghdad, Salah ad Din, Karbala, Najaf and Al-Muthana) and AR (Alluvial Region: Wasit, Al-Qādisiyyah, Maysan, Dhi Qar, Babil and Basra).
The Desert region (DR) with environmentally extremely harsh conditions in the west and southwest covers the largest area of Iraq. The Mountainous and highlands region (MR) with moderate temperature in the north-east and in the north is characterized by the presence of many trees, especially oaks, but also by numerous cliffs and rocks. The transitional region located between desert and mountains is undulated and hilly (UR) extending from the northern to the eastern parts of Iraq. The Alluvial region (AR) in the central and southern part of the country is characterised by scattered lakes and marshes (Malinowski 2002, Bachmann et al. 2011).
History of research on Iraqi scorpion fauna
Pioneering research (1861–1955)
Peters (1861) was the first to describe a scorpion species, Hemiscorpius lepturus, from what is now the territory of Iraq (Mendeli near Baghdad). Simon (1880) described Buthus saulcyi from Mosul Province. Kraepelin (1899), summarizing records of the known Iraqi scorpions, additionally listed Buthus crassicauda (Mesopotamia), B. saulcyi (Mosul) and Hemiscorpius lepturus (Baghdad). Later, Birula (1910) described the subspecies Scorpio maurus kruglovi from Mosul.
The earliest detailed report on the scorpions of Iraq was published by Penther (1912). When Penther carried on his fieldwork and published his paper, Iraq still did not exist as a country. Therefore, some records refer to localities within the present borders of Turkey and Syria. Penther listed six species from modern Iraq from the provinces Salah ad Din, Mosul, Baghdad and Babil.
Four studies published between 1918 and 1955 reported information on the scorpions of Iraq. Birula (1918) gave an Orthochirus mesopotamicus record from Baksai (now Wasit Province, Iraq). Corkhill (1930) reported Buthus australis and Hemiscorpius lepturus from Baghdad. After that, Kennedy (1937) reported another two species from Baghdad identified as Buthus crassicauda and B. eupeus. The work by Whittick (1955) was a critical and detailed study focused on the diversity of Iraqi scorpions. He listed eight species from the provinces Baghdad, Duhok, Ninevah, Diyala, Dhi Qar, Erbil and Al Anbar.
Modern research (1960–1998)
Pringle (1960) published a comprehensive study on the scorpion fauna of Iraq based on the previous locality records of Whittick (1955), with some new observations. In his work, he reported nine different species from the provinces Baghdad, Duhok, Karbala, Diyala, Mosul, Babil, Wasit, Basra, Kirkuk, Dhi Qar and Sulaymaniyah.
A study by Leila Khalaf (1962), under the supervision of Professor Kamal Khalaf, is considered the first scientific work by Iraq's researchers conducted on scorpion samples present in Iraq in natural history institutes. Khalaf listed eight species from Baghdad, Salah ad Din, Maysan, Duhok, Erbil and Diyala provinces.
The following study by K. Khalaf (1963) did not report any new localities but listed only the 14 previously mentioned species. Vachon (1966) compiled the comprehensive list of scorpion species of the Middle East countries, including 15 species from Iraq.
Levy et al. (1973) mentioned a female of Buthacus yotvatensis in the BMNH collection from Hinadi (Baghdad Province), but the record is questionable since the authors did not investigate this material. Kovařík (1992) and Sissom & Fet (1998) reported three further species from Iraq.
Research after the Catalog of the Scorpions of the World (2000–2020)
After publication of the world scorpion catalogue (Fet et al. 2000), several studies contributed to the scorpion fauna of Iraq. Fet & Kovařík (2003) recorded Euscorpius (Polytrichobothrius) italicus from an oasis in Najaf Province (clearly introduced by humans). Kovařík (2003) described Compsobuthus jakesi from Najaf Province. Kovařík (2004) corrected the Orthochirus innesi record and described this population as a new species from Najaf Province – O. iraqus and synonymized Buthus pietschmanni with Buthacus macrocentrus (Kovařík 2005). Odontobuthus bidentatus was described from Khanaqin (Dyala Province) (Lourenço & Pézier 2002) and Hottentotta mesopotamicus from Zakho (Dohuk Province) (Lourenço & Qi 2007).
Fet et al. (2009) described Calchas birulai from Turkey and reported this species also from Iraq at Geli Ali Beg waterfall (Erbil Province). Yağmur et al. (2013) described Calchas anlasi from Çukurca (Hakkari, Turkey) and suggested that the Erbil population of C. birulai belongs to this species. Tahir et al. (2014) recorded Razianus zarudnyi from Bazair (Baghdad Province).
Al-Azawi (2017) collected samples from nine provinces in the middle and south of Iraq. The scorpion species recorded were: Androctonus crassicauda from Abo Ghraib (Baghdad), Al Dora (Baghdad), Al-Kadhymia (Baghdad), Al-Sink (Baghdad Province), Al-Topchi (Baghdad), Batawin (Baghdad), Al-Tagi (Baghdad) and Karbala Province; Mesobuthus eupeus from Al-Khalis, Baqubah (Diyala Province), Baladiyat, Abo Ghraib and Zafaraninyah (Baghdad Province); Orthochirus scrobiculosus from Abo Ghraib (Baghdad Province); Hottentotta zagrosensis from Al-Topchi, Al-Sink (Baghdad Province) and Al-Kales, Baquba (Diyala Province); H. judaicus from Al-Ahoiesh (Diyala Province); Bothriurus nendai from Abo Ghraib, Al-Nairiyaha, Baghdad Province (Baghdad Province); Scorpio maurus from Mishkab region (Najaf Province). Al-Azawii (2018) described Compsobuthus iraqensis from Tikrit (Salahuddin Province).
Al-Khazali & Yağmur (2019) reported six scorpion species from Dhi Qar Province: Androctonus bicolor, Buthacus macrocentrus, Compsobuthus matthiesseni, Mesobuthus phillipsii, Orthochirus iraqus and Androctonus crassicauda.
Kovařík et al. (2019b) reviewed Orthochirus scrobiculosus mesopotamicus, confirmed its validity and elevated it to species level as O. mesopotamicus. In addition, they described Orthochirus fomichevi from Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk Provinces.
Most recently, Kachel (2020) recorded Androctonus crassicauda, Hottentotta saulcyi and Scorpio maurus in Zakho (Duhok Province).
Androctonus crassicauda (Olivier, 1807)
Androctonus crassicauda has been reported from Iraq in several studies under different names as Buthus crassicauda by Kraepelin (1899) and Kennedy (1937); Prionurus crassicauda by Penther (1912); and Buthus (Prionurus) crassicauda by Whittick (1955). The majority of studies have reported it under the currently accepted name, Androctonus crassicauda: Pringle (1960), Khalaf (1962), Khalaf (1963), Vachon (1966), Al-Azawi (2017), Al-Khazali & Yağmur (2019) and Kachel (2020).
Buthacus macrocentrus (Ehrenberg, 1828)
Buthus pietschmanni is an enigmatic scorpion species described by Penther (1912) that was later synonymized with Buthacus macrocentrus (Ehrenberg, 1828) by Kovařík (2005). On the other hand, Whittick (1955), Pringle (1960), Khalaf (1962) and Khalaf (1963) reported only the existence of Buthacus leptochelys and did not include anything about Buthus pietschmanni. Vachon (1966) mentioned both Buthus pietschmanni and Buthacus leptochelys. In our opinion, all Buthacus leptochelys records from Iraq belong to B. macrocentrus and, as we already mentioned, Buthus pietschmanni is a synonym of Buthacus macrocentrus (Kovařík 2005). Levy et al. (1973) listed a doubtful Buthacus yotvatensis record from Hinadi (Baghdad Province); presumably this record also belongs to B. macrocentrus. Therefore, we exclude both Buthacus leptochelys and B. yotvatensis from scorpion species list of Iraq and accept all their localities for B. macrocentrus.
Kovařík (1992) reported Buthus occitanus (Amoreux, 1789) in Iraq. However, in the last two decades, several studies demonstrated that all populations of Buthus in the Middle East and Northern Africa do not belong to Buthus occitanus (which is restricted only to NE Spain and SW France; Sousa et al. 2017). Therefore, B. occitanus is excluded from the scorpion list of Iraq.
There is also an undescribed Buthus in Iraq, so far documented by only a single male (Sousa et al. 2017, F. Kovařík personal communication). We thus refer to this species as Buthus sp. pending its proper description.
Compsobuthus matthiesseni (Birula, 1905)
Whittick (1955) recorded Buthus acutecarinatus var. judaicus from Iraq. Khalaf (1962) and Khalaf (1963) reported it as Compsobuthus acutecarinatus while Pringle (1960) gave a record of C. matthiesseni. Vachon (1966) listed all three names: Compsobuthus acutecarinatus, C. judaicus and C. matthiesseni. Compsobuthus matthiesseni was described as a subspecies of C. acutecarinatus (Simon, 1882), and Vachon & Kinzelbach (1987) elevated it to species level. Sissom & Fet (1998) redescribed C. matthiesseni and confirmed its species level. Therefore, we accept all previous records of Compsobuthus acutecarinatus as C. matthiesseni. Furthermore, Fet & Lowe (2000) did not list C. acutecarinatus in Iraq. Lourenço et al. (2010) redescribed C. acutecarinatus and restricted its distribution to Yemen and Oman. Therefore, we exclude Compsobuthus acutecarinatus and C. judaicus from the scorpion list of Iraq.
Al-Azawii (2018) described Compsobuthus iraqensis from Iraq, but did not compare it with the two Compsobuthus species already known from Iraq (C. jakesi and C. matthiesseni), while comparing it with Compsobuthus persicus occurring only in Iran. In addition, the author did not mention the existence of C. matthiesseni in Iraq; the species is widely distributed there (Sissom & Fet 1998). The description of C. iraqensis having long and slender pedipalps and chelae, the fifth segment of the metasoma very long and narrow, and colouration of all body generally yellow to pale yellow, matches that of C. matthiesseni. According to Sissom & Fet (1998), in C. matthiesseni, the posterior median carinae terminate distally in a small spinoid process that extends slightly beyond the posterior margin of the carapace, and the central median and posterior median carinae are slightly separated by a small space, and linearly arranged. These characters match the published image of the carapace of C. iraqensis (Al-Azawii 2018). Based on this evidence we synonymize Compsobuthus iraqensis Al-Azawii, 2018 = C. matthiesseni (Birula, 1905), syn. nov.
Hottentotta mesopotamicus Lourenço & Qi, 2007 and Hottentotta saulcyi (Simon, 1880)
Whittick (1955) reported Buthotus scaber (now Hottentotta scaber), but Pringle (1960) did not confirm this record. Instead, he reported a yellow Buthotus sp. that was less hirsute than Hottentotta saulcyi. Subsequently, Lourenço & Qi (2007) described Hottentotta mesopotamicus from Zakho in northern Iraq. The characteristics of H. mesopotamicus were, to a certain extent, identical to the Buthotus sp. reported by Pringle (1960). Because H. mesopotamicus is uniformly yellow in coloration and less hirsute than Hottentotta saulcyi, we accept that Pringle (1960) recorded Hottentotta mesopotamicus from Khanaqin (Dyala Province). Furthermore, H. scaber is only known from Yemen and is therefore excluded from the list of scorpions in Iraq.
Hottentotta schach (Birula, 1905), H. zagrosensis Kovařík, 1997 and H. judaicus (Simon, 1872)
Vachon (1966) listed Buthotus schach (now Hottentotta schach) for Iraq referring to Birula (1905). Recently, however, H. schach has been revised by Kovařík et al. (2019a) who demonstrated that the original records of Birula (1905) are only from Iran. Therefore, H. schach is excluded from the scorpion fauna of Iraq.
Al-Azawi (2017) reported Hottentotta zagrosensis and H. judaicus from Iraq, but it is clear from the figures given in this paper that both species belong to the genus Androctonus. Therefore, these two species are excluded from the list of scorpions in Iraq.
Bothriurus nendai Ojanguren Affilastro & Garcia-Mauro, 2010
Al-Azawi (2017) also recorded Bothriurus nendai Ojanguren Affilastro & Garcia-Mauro, 2010 from the family Bothriuridae, which is present only in South America, southern Africa and Australia (Kovařík & Ojanguren Affilastro 2013). Al-Azawi's (2017) record of Bothriurus nendai is surely erroneous, because this species occurs only in Argentina and no species from the family Bothriuridae occur in the Palearctic region. Moreover, it is clear from the figure of B. nendai, that the depicted animal in fact belongs to a species of the genus Androctonus from family Buthidae. Thin chela on the figure strongly resemble Androctonus bicolor.
Sissom (1994) reported Leiurus quinquestriatus (Ehrenberg, 1828) from Iraq without mentioning the exact locality. Vachon & Kinzelbach (1987) did not clarify this record. Recently, Lowe et al. (2014) revised Leiurus populations from the Middle East and reported that the genus Leiurus does not occur in Iraq. However, there was a sting by Leiurus reported from Balad town (Saladin) by Shalita & Wells (2007). They stated the species was Leiurus quinquestriatus and the figure in their paper is clearly a Leiurus. However, Leiurus quinquestriatus is restricted to North Africa (Lowe et al. 2014). Therefore, this Leiurus population cannot be Leiurus quinquestriatus. Very recently, Lourenço (2020) described Leiurus kuwaiti from Al-Abraq, Kuwait, very close to the border of Iraq. Previous records may belong to this new species. Therefore, Leiurus quinquestriatus is excluded from the list of scorpion fauna in Iraq but we do not know whether the reported species could be assigned to Leiurus kuwaiti. Therefore, we list it here as Leiurus sp.
Mesobuthus phillipsii (Pocock, 1889)
Penther (1912) also described Buthus eupeus mesopotamicus, which was synonymized with Mesobuthus eupeus phillipsii (Pocock, 1889) by Kovařík et al. (2011). Soon after, M. e. phillipsii was elevated to species level as M. phillipsii by Mirshamsi et al. (2011). Mesobuthus eupeus was reported under different generic names in previous studies. Whittick (1955) reported it under Buthus while Pringle (1960), Khalaf (1963), Vachon (1966) and Al-Azawi (2017) reported it under Mesobuthus from various areas. There is a high probability that all previous records could belong to M. phillipsii because it has been listed for a long time as a subspecies of Mesobuthus eupeus. We treat all M. eupeus records as referring to M. phillipsii and exclude M. eupeus from the list of Iraqi scorpions. From the zoo-geographical point of view, Mesobuthus eupeus occurs on the north to the Zagros-Taurus mountain range, thus does not reach Iraq in its distribution (Mirshamsi 2013). Al-Khazali & Yağmur (2019) recently reported only M. phillipsii.
Olivierus caucasicus (Nordmann, 1840)
The genus Olivierus was described by Farzanpay (1987) (with the type species Buthus caucasicus) and was synonymized with Mesobuthus by Gantenbein et al. (2003); Kovařík (2019), however, reestablished the genus Olivierus. Although Zhang et al. (2020) did not accept it, we follow and accept the results of Kovařík (2019). The genus Olivierus is not found south of the Zagros-Taurus mountain range. Therefore, Penther's Olivierus caucasicus record is very doubtful, and O. caucasicus has not been confirmed in Iraq again. We speculate that this record may belong to Mesobuthus, and Olivierus caucasicus should thus be excluded from the list of Iraqi scorpions.
Odontobuthus bidentatus Lourenço & Pézier, 2002
Pringle (1960) recorded Odontobuthus doriae, which was also listed by Khalaf (1963). Lourenço & Pézier (2002) described O. bidentatus from the west of the Zagros Mountains. Odontobuthus doriae is endemic to the central plateau region of Iran, but does not occur in Iraq leading us to exclude it from the list of scorpions in Iraq.
Orthochirus mesopotamicus (Birula, 1918) and Orthochirus iraqus Kovařík, 2004
Penther (1912) recorded Butheolus scrobiculosus var. persa Birula, 1900, later reported as Orthochirus scrobiculosus in studies by Whittick (1955), Pringle (1960), Khalaf (1962) and Khalaf (1963). Vachon (1966), however, mentioned both Orthochirus persa (as a valid species, without any justification) and O. scrobiculosus (Grube, 1873). The latter is a name traditionally used for many Orthochirus populations from the Middle East and Central Asia. However, O. scrobiculosus was described from western Turkmenistan, and many of the known populations were misidentified. Kovařík (1992) reported O. innesi (Simon, 1910) from Iraq; later he corrected this and described it as a new species – O. iraqus Kovařík, 2004. Recently, Kovařík et al. (2019b) reviewed the Orthochirus fauna of Iraq; they elevated O. scrobiculosus mesopotamicus Birula, 1918 to species level and described a new species, O. fomichevi. In addition, they confirmed O. iraqus in Iraq. Each Orthochirus species in Iraq has a limited range, e.g. O. fomichevi is found in the north of the country and the foothills of Zagros Mountains, O. iraqus is found in the central and western plains, while O. mesopotamicus is found in southern humid and plain regions of Iraq. Therefore, we consider that all the previous records of Orthochirus in Iraq belong to the three above-mentioned species, while Orthochirus innesi, O. scrobiculosus and O. persa are excluded from the list of Iraqi scorpions. We reviewed again the record of O. iraqus by Al-Khazali & Yağmur (2019) from Dhi Qar Province and correct it to O. mesopotamicus herein.
Razianus zarudnyi (Birula, 1903)
Razianus zarudnyi was described by Birula (1903) as Hemibuthus zarudnyi from Baluchistan, Persia (now Sistan and Baluchistan Provinces, Iran). Farzanpay (1987) erected the genus Razianus and transferred this species to the new genus. Razianus zarudnyi has been reported only from Iran for long time (Birula 1903, Vachon 1966, Farzanpay 1987, Navidpour et al. 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2008d, 2010, 2012, 2013, Pirali-Kheirabadi et al. 2009, Karataş et al. 2012). Recently Tahir et al. (2014) confirmed it from Iran and recorded from Iraq.
Scorpio kruglovi Birula, 1910
Penther (1912) recorded Scorpio maurus var. testaceus from Iraq, a subspecies that was already synonymized by Birula (1910) with S. maurus maurus, which only occurs in northern Africa. In addition, Birula (1910) also described another subspecies, S. maurus kruglovi from Mosul and Deir-Zor, upper Euphrates (now Deir ez-Zor). Although Fet (2000) mentioned this locality as being in Iraq, it is now within the territory of Syria. This subspecies was recently elevated to species level as Scorpio kruglovi by Talal et al. (2015). Therefore, all records from Iraq seem to belong to S. kruglovi. Pringle (1960) reported Scorpio maurus fuscus from Sarsing (Dohuk Province), which is close to the type locality of S. kruglovi. Besides, Whittick (1955) already reported S. maurus kruglovi from Dohuk. Therefore, we accept the record of Pringle (1960) belongs to S. kruglovi, and S. fuscus is excluded from the list of scorpions from Iraq. Due to the known localities of Scorpio all being close to the type locality of Scorpio kruglovi, and this species was already recorded from Iraq, we accept all records as S. kruglovi.
Systematic list of the scorpions of Iraq
Data on the distribution of each scorpion species in Iraq are presented according to 18 administrative provinces.
In Iraq, the family Buthidae includes nine genera and 15 species (Tab. 1). The members of genera Androctonus, Buthacus, Buthus, Hottentotta, Leiurus, Mesobuthus and Odontobuthus are medically important species. Because they have effective neurotoxic venom they are dangerous for human health (Ward et al. 2018).
Androctonus bicolor (Ehrenberg, 1828)
Type locality and repository. Egypt; ZMH.
Distribution in Iraq. Dhi Qar Province (Al-Khazali & Yağmur 2019).
Androctonus crassicauda (Olivier, 1807)
Type locality and repository. Iran, Esfahan Province, Kashan; type lost.
Distribution in Iraq. A. crassicauda is one of the most widely distributed species in most provinces of Iraq. Basra, Babil, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Al-Qādisiyyah, Wasit, Najaf, Salah ad-Din, Karbala, Al Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Mosul, Erbil & Duhok Provinces (Whittick 1955, Pringle 1960, Khalaf 1962, Al-Ramahi & Al-Hasnawi 2012, Al-Azawi 2017, Al-Khazali & Yağmur 2019, Kachel 2020).
General distribution. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt (Sinai), Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (Fet & Lowe 2000, Hendrixson 2006).
Buthacus macrocentrus (Ehrenberg, 1828)
Type locality and repository. Egypt, Sinai; ZMB.
Distribution in Iraq. Baghdad Province (Kovařík 1992).
Note. Yet undescribed species (see above).
Compsobuthus jakesi Kovařík, 2003
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Najaf Province, Ash-Shabakah; FKCP.
Distribution in Iraq. Najaf Province (Kovařík 2003).
General distribution. Iran, Iraq (Kovařík 2003).
Compsobuthus matthiesseni (Birula, 1905)
Type locality and repository. Iran, Qum Province (= Qom); ZISP.
Hottentotta mesopotamicus Lourenço & Qi, 2007
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Duhok Province, Zakho; MNHN.
Hottentotta saulcyi (Simon, 1880)
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Mosul; MNHN, ZMH.
Note. An unidentified species (see above).
Mesobuthus phillipsii (Pocock, 1889)
Type locality and repository. Iran, Bushehr Province, Bushehr; BMNH.
Distribution in Iraq. Mosul, Salah ad-Din, Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Babil and Basra Provinces (Penther 1912, Whittick 1955, Pringle 1960, Khalaf 1962, Vachon 1966, Morad & Al-Abbad 2016, Al-Azawi 2017, Al-Khazali & Yağmur 2019).
Odontobuthus bidentatus Lourenço & Pézier, 2002
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Baghdad, Khanaqin-Dyala; MHNG.
General distribution. Iran, Iraq (Lourenço & Pézier 2002).
Orthochirus fomichevi Kovařík, Yağmur, Fet & Hussen, 2019
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Sulaymaniyah Province, Chaqzhi Khwaroo; FKCP.
Distribution in Iraq. Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk Provinces (Kovařík et al. 2019b).
General distribution. Iraq, Turkey (Kovařík et al. 2019b).
Orthochirus mesopotamicus (Birula, 1918)
Type locality and repository. Iran, Khoozestan Province, Karun River, Kut-e-Gazaie; ZISP.
Distribution in Iraq. Wasit, Basra & Dhi Qar Provinces (Kovařík et al. 2019b, Al-Khazali & Yağmur 2019).
General distribution. Iran, Iraq (Kovařík et al. 2019b).
Orthochirus iraqus Kovařík, 2004
Type locality and repository. Iraq, Najaf Province, Ash-Shabakah (Shabachah, Shabicha); FKCP.
Distribution in Iraq. Baghdad & Najaf Provinces (Kovařík 2004, Kovařík et al. 2019b).
General distribution. Iraq (Kovařík 2004, Kovařík et al. 2019b).
Euscorpius is the single genus of this family that has been reported in Iraq. Euscorpius italicus is distributed in separated regions. The reported population of this species in Iraq is assumed to be from a foreign source. Members of the family Euscorpiidae are not medically important species (Ward et al. 2018).
Euscorpius italicus (Herbst, 1800)
Type locality and repository. Italy; type(s) lost.
Distribution in Iraq. Najaf Province (Fet & Kovařík 2003).
General distribution. Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, France, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen (Fet & Sissom 2000, Fet & Kovařík 2003, Yağmur 2012).
This family includes 16 species belonging to a single genus Hemiscorpius, which are distributed in the Middle East. The knowledge available on the venom components of one member of this family, Hemiscorpius lepturus, shows their medical significance (Monod & Lourenço 2005). Therefore, handling other species of Hemiscorpiidae should be done extremely carefully due to unknown venom composition.
The distribution of the family Iuridae is almost only limited to Greece and Turkey, with a single record in Iraq (Erbil); it requires further verification in Syria. Stings by the species of this family does not cause any harm to human health and such cases are also very rare. They have strong pedipalps for capturing prey.
The family Scorpionidae includes only one genus in Middle East and North Africa which is Scorpio. The species S. fuscus (Ehrenberg, 1829), S. kruglovi Birula, 1910, S. palmatus (Ehrenberg, 1828), S. propinquus (Simon, 1872) and the subspecies S. maurus arabicus (Pocock, 1900) and S. maurus towsendi (Pocock, 1900) are known in the Middle East and Iran. Among these valid species only S. kruglovi Birula, 1910 was reported from Iraq. Members of the family Scorpionidae are not medically important species (Ward et al. 2018).
Scorpio kruglovi Birula, 1910
Type locality and repository. Deir-Zor, upper Euphrates, now Syria; ZISP.
General distribution. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria (Fet 2000).
Based on our revision, the Iraqi scorpion fauna consists of 19 species from 13 genera and five families: Buthidae, Euscorpiidae, Hemiscorpiidae, Iuridae and Scorpionidae. The majority of the species (15) belong to Buthidae, and the other families are represented by one species each. However, the Iraqi scorpion fauna is one of the least studied in the region, when compared to some neighbouring countries. Currently, 41 species and three subspecies from four families of scorpion are known from Turkey (Dupre 2016), 21 species in three families are known in Syria (Khalil & Yağmur 2010), 28 species are reported from Saudi Arabia (Al-Asmari et al. 2013) and 68 species in three families from Iran (Cokendolpher et al. 2019).
Identification of scorpion species based on morphological characters only, which are often inadequately described and illustrated, are the main taxonomic problem behind the continuous changes in scorpion classification (Sissom & Fet 1998). More detailed studies in the future will give us more accurate information about the true identity of some species. For example, Orthochirus innesi in Iraq was recorded by Kovařík (1992). Later this record was corrected by the same author (Kovařík 2005) to a new species, O. iraqus. In addition, several species have been recorded under different names or reported without verified confirmation for their existence in Iraq. Here, we excluded 18 species from the scorpion fauna of Iraq. To avoid such issues, a combination of morphology (chaetotaxy) and modern methods (molecular analyses) should be used for scorpion species identification (Dehghani & Kassiri 2018). It is also necessary that existing species should be properly redescribed, as Kovařík et al. (2019b) did for Orthochirus mesopotamicus and Orthochirus iraqus.
Distribution of the 18 accepted scorpion species in different provinces and regions of Iraq. Province numbers 1–18 are shown in Fig. 1. Mr = Mountainous and highlands region, UR = Undulated and hilly, DR = Desert region, AR = Alluvial region
The geographical distribution of scorpion species in the four regions of Iraq is shown in Tab. 1. Three (Androctonus crassicauda, Buthacus macrocentrus and Compsobuthus matthiesseni) of the nineteen species are recorded in all four geographical regions. Buthidae – the most common and diverse family in Iraq – includes nine genera, Androctonus, Buthacus, Buthus, Compsobuthus, Hottentotta, Leiurus, Odontobuthus, Orthochirus and Razianus. The genera with the highest number of species recorded are Hottentotta and Orthochirus (three species each) (Tab. 1). Fourteen of the 19 species are recorded in DR which accounts for 74% of all scorpion diversity in Iraq. Recording of the large number of species in DR indicates that these species prefer desert habitats.
It is clear from the data presented in this review that seven of the 19 known species (A. bicolor, Buthus sp., C. jakesi, Leiurus sp., R. zarudnyi, E. italicus and C. anlasi) have been reported from only one locality (Tab. 1) and most of them are identified from a very small number or even a single specimen. The data related to the single restricted geographical distribution of scorpion species in Iraq might be due to the inadequate number of scientific field studies rather than to restricted ecological conditions. Therefore, further investigation is required for confirmation of their presence and geographical distribution in Iraq, especially in western and southwestern regions.
On the other hand, twelve species (A. crassicauda, B. macrocentrus, C. matthiesseni, H. mesopotamicus, H. saulcyi, M. phillipsii, O. bidentatus, O. fomichevi, O. mesopotamicus, O. iraqus, H. lepturus and S. kruglovi) have wider geographical distribution in two or more regions and provinces throughout the country and appear to be adapted to different habitats (Mirshamsi 2013). Androctonus crassicauda is widespread in Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and is the most frequently reported species in Iraq (Ozkan et al. 2006, Navidpour et al. 2012). It has been recorded from 15 provinces out of 18 in Iraq. Compsobuthus matthiesseni, H. saulcyi, M. phillipsii, O. fomichevi and S. kruglovi may be noted as other species which are widespread in Iraq.
Lack of detailed epidemiological and biochemical studies on the scorpions of Iraq are the main reasons behind unknown dangerously venomous and medical important species. Based on international studies, H. lepturus, A. crassicauda, A. bicolor and H. saulcyi are considered venomous and medically important scorpion species from Iraq (Keegan 1980). Beside H. lepturus from the family Hemiscorpiidae, reportedly the most dangerous and medically important scorpion species in Iraq, all other hazardous scorpion species belong to the family Buthidae. Hemiscorpius lepturus is generally found in the Baghdad and Diyala provinces in Iraq. It is also found in Yemen and Pakistan (Rein 2020). Hemiscorpius lepturus is known to cause 95% of patient deaths by scorpion stings in Iran (Radmanesh 1990). Therefore, educating health staff and communities with the necessary knowledge on the morphology and ecology of the known scorpion species in Iraq might lead to significant reduction in the rate of scorpion stings. In addition, this work might lead to future studies on the bioactive molecules within their venom for better understanding their modes of action and developing species-specific anti venom.
We would like to thank Victor Fet, Gérard Dupre and Graeme Lowe for providing us with the required papers and information. Special thanks to Victor Fet for his very extensive and complex review and assistance in manuscript English editing.