Reaction under the risk of predation: effects of age and sexual plasticity on defensive behavior in scorpion Tityus pusillus (Scorpiones: Buthidae)

  • André F. A. LiraEmail author
  • Fabrícia M. F. Almeida
  • Cleide M. R. Albuquerque


Differences in gender and age and the balance between aggressive behavior and the ability to escape are fundamental in predator–prey interactions, as well as for survival, foraging, and mating success. We investigated the defensive behavior of the scorpion Tityus pusillus and assessed possible differences in their behavior responses associated with sex, age, and diel period, by simulating a predation threat. Predator attacks were simulated by pressing the telsons with forceps, dropping the animals from a height of 25 cm on a plastic tray, restraining the pincers using large rubber-tipped tweezers, or restricting the prosoma. Tityus pusillus (Buthidae) showed five defensive behaviors: thanatosis, fleeing, stinging, standing still, and tail wagging. The scorpions responded with thanatosis or fleeing when their telsons were restricted. The frequency of these responses varied with sex and diel period. Stinging was the primary behavior response to prosoma restriction in both adults and juveniles while standing still was the most frequently observed behavior response to restraining pincers. These results indicate that the plasticity of defensive behavior in T. pusillus in response to predation is influenced by sex, age, diel period, and the body part targeted by the predator.


Thanatosis Fleeing Tail wagging Aggressive females Brazil 



We are grateful to Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for granting a PhD scholarship to A.F.A. Lira and to Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (Fellowship #307759/2015-6 for research productivity) for a financial support for C.M.R. Albuquerque. We also grateful to Fundação de Amparo a Ciência e Tecnologia de Pernambuco (FACEPE) for financial support (APQ-0437-2.04/15).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Experiments using invertebrate animals conducted in Brazil do not require approval by the Ethics Committees, as established by the Brazilian Council for the Control of Animal Experimentation (CONCEA) (Law 11.794/08, § 3). In addition, the authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Animal, Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco, UFPERecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco, UFPERecifeBrazil

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