The relative importance of respiratory water loss in scorpions is correlated with species habitat type and activity pattern

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jan-Feb 2011;84(1):68-76. doi: 10.1086/657688.


Scorpions exhibit some of the lowest recorded water loss rates compared with those of other terrestrial arthropods of similar body size. Evaporative water loss (EWL) includes cuticular transpiration and respiratory water loss (RWL) from gas exchange surfaces, that is, book lung lamellae. Estimated fractions of cuticular and respiratory losses currently available from the literature show considerable variation, at least partly as a result of differences in methodology. This study reports RWL rates and their relative importance in scorpions from two families (Buthidae and Scorpionidae), including both xeric and mesic species (or subspecies). Two of the included Buthidae were surface-dwelling species, and another inhabits empty burrows of other terrestrial arthropods. This experimental design enabled correlating RWL importance with scorpion phylogeny, habitat type, and/or homing behavior. Buthidae species exhibited significantly lower EWL rates compared with those of Scorpionidae, whereas effects of habitat type and homing behavior were not significant. Resting RWL rates were not significantly affected by scorpion phylogeny, but rates for the xeric species (totaling ~10% of EWL rates at 30°C) were significantly lower compared with those of mesic species. These lower RWL values were correlated with significantly lower H(2)O/CO(2) emission rates in xeric species. The experimental setup and ~24-h duration of each individual recording allowed estimating the effect of interspecific variation in activity on RWL proportions. The high respiratory losses in active hydrated Scorpio maurus fuscus, totaling 30% of EWL, suggest that behavioral discretion in this species is a more likely mechanism for body water conservation under stressful conditions when compared with the responses of other studied species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Desert Climate
  • Ecosystem
  • Homing Behavior
  • Israel
  • Phylogeny
  • Scorpions / classification
  • Scorpions / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Loss, Insensible