We examine the role of the sit and wait foraging strategy and of the stability and predictability of the biotic environment in shaping population biology and life history traits of the desert scorpion, Scorpio maurus palmatus. The study was carried out in a loessial plain in the Negev desert, Israel. We used a grid system (5x80 m) within the Hammada scoparia plant association. The area was divided into 1,600 squares (50x50 cm) and the presence (within ±5 cm) and width of each scorpion burrow was recorded for eight years (1973–1980). It was found that: (1) Dispersal is a common phenomenon for all S. maurus palmatus age groups and takes place only after a heavy rainfall when soil moisture is high. (2) Dispersion patterns change from clumped to random as a function of age. (3) Dispersal is age specific and density dependent. (4) During the dry seasons a high percentage of the population goes into the resting stage.
In order to integrate the above findings, a graphical model was constructed with the main assumption that the S. maurus palmatus prey availability relationship is a decreasing function between the scorpion burrow and its food resources. Data and model analysis led to the conclusion that the desert scorpion, S. maurus palmatus, is confronted with a relatively predictable physical environmeent and unpredictable biological environment. Two alternative strategies are available for S. maurus palmatus to overcome prey unpredictability; dispersal during the rainy season and inactivity during the dry seasons.
We suggest that many other burrowing desert animals may face the problem of unpredictability of biological resources. Thus it seems that the S. maurus palmatus biological relationship model can be applied, with modifications, to a wide spectrum of desert burrowing animals.