A face only a mother could love

Centruroides vittatus - striped bark scorpion

Centruroides vittatus - striped bark scorpion

I found this guy yesterday secreted under a rock in a limestone glade at White River Balds Natural Area in extreme southwest Missouri.  Centruroides vittatus¹ is the most common scorpion in the U.S., occurring naturally in southern Missouri, western Arkansas and western Louisiana, west through Texas, Oklahoma and much of Kansas to southeastern Colorado and eastern New Mexico, and south into northern Mexico (Shelley and Sissom 1985). The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, respectively, seem to form natural northern and eastern distributional boundaries, with occurrences just to the north and east attributed to rafting or natural alterations of the river’s courses and those occurring far outside the natural range regarded as the result of human introductions. This includes not only states in the eastern U.S., but several countries in South America (Sissom and Lourenco 1987)!

¹ The generic name Centruroides is from the Greek words centr-, meaning “pointed,” ur, meaning “tail,” and –oides meaning “like” or “the form of” (the original genus name, Centrurus, was preoccupied by another animal, thus, Centruroides, or “like Centrurus“). Centruroides is often misspelled as “Centuroides” in non-primary literature.

If you squit your eyes, it looks like he’s “smiling”! Also, note the eight eyes (two dorsal and three each side laterally)! Also, I know I didn’t nail the focus on the dorsal ocelli – depth-of-field limitations prevented getting both the ocelli and the jaws. I should’ve gone f/16 but thought I’d nailed it. That’ll teach me not to bracket anyway!

Photo details: Canon 65mm 1-5X macro lens on Canon EOS 50D, manual mode, ISO-100, 1/250 sec, f/14, MT-24EX flash 1/4 power through diffuser caps. Photo slightly cropped and darkened.


Shelley, R. M. and W. D. Sissom. 1985. Distributions of the scorpions Centruroides vittatus (Say) and Centruroides hentzi (Banks) in the United States and Mexico (Scorpiones, Buthidae). The Journal of Arachnology 23:100–110.

Sissom, W. D. and W. R . Lourenço. 1987. The genus Centruroides in South America (Scorpiones, Buthidae). The Journal of Arachnology 15:11–28.


Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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14 thoughts on “A face only a mother could love

  1. Very cool photo. Love the eyes. I have been stung several times by these guys, but never smiled at before. How lucky are you !

    Winter is good. Maybe I’ll have time to sort photos and post more.

    Come visit anytime,

    Latest post…..
    Colorado Riverhemp.

  2. This looks so much like an alien creature that has descended upon us, that if you told me it was I wouldn’t doubt you for a second. Great shot of a curious little creature. I recently worked a bug event, and young man by the name of Andrew had one of these little scorpions, and was very brave in handling it. I thought for sure our guests were going to get a lesson in why we DO NOT handle wild creatures if the thing should happen to bite him. Fortunately nothing so dramatic happened.

    • Thank you, Shelly. He was very docile as I prodded him into position for the photos, always backing away from the stick and never trying to sting it. Still, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to handle one of these guys.

  3. Great portrait! Noticed the lateral ocelli seem to be pointing down, at least in this scorpion. Strange, I wonder if that is generally true and I’ve been a vicitm of non-scorpiocentric perspective.

    The white stuff has been on the ground here all week and the plants were caught with their leaves still on, all except the ash – but I think the drought dropped them. For the next eight months I guess I’ll be doing what your other commentators suggest – sorting through the backlog of pictures.

    • Thanks, Dave. My guess is that the lateral ocelli expand the field of view to the ground area around them and are more involved in prey detection, while the dorsal ocelli are more involved in predator detection – but that is just a guess based on their positioning. I haven’t seen closeups of enough other species to know whether this is a general feature or not, but now I’m interested to look.

      We’ve had a rather abrupt end to our season here as well – no snow, but the weather has taken a sudden cold, wet turn (unfortunately coinciding with my attempted final field trip of the season). I’ve already made marvelous progress on organizing some images from this past season.

  4. Hi Ted,
    I just returned from a trip to Missouri – I have family in Riverside, near Kansas City. I drove – its about 9-10 hours one-way. I really enjoyed the scenery though, and the Missouri River was so neat to see.

    I am one of those people who is slowly breaking the habit of calling most invertebrates “bugs.” I am learning more about insects and arachnids from self-study and your blog. I’ve even hosted a CotS, though I was hardly worthy.

    Great photo of the scorpion, though I never would have guessed it.


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