acta ethologica

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 291–295 | Cite as

Threat level influences the use of venom in a scorpion species, Tityus stigmurus (Scorpiones, Buthidae)

  • André F.A. Lira
  • Adriana B. Santos
  • Nathália A. Silva
  • René D. Martins
Original Paper


Venom demands high metabolic costs of the organisms that produce it because it is comprised of a complex mixture of various toxins. Due to this high cost, venomous animals modulate the amount or type of venom used depending on factors such as size of prey or intensity of predation threat. This paper shows that Tityus stigmurus, a prevalent scorpion species in the urban environment in the Northeast of Brazil, modulates its venom in response to different levels of stimuli. Sixty animals were collected in Vitória de Santo Antão, Pernambuco. The animals were subjected to either high or low levels of threats. During the tests, the animals were gently touched five times on the mesosoma with forceps at an interval of 5 s (high threat) or 5 min (low threat). The response varied significantly between intensity levels, with the animals exposed to low threat stinging in 70% of the observations and releasing a clear venom. In contrast, individuals subjected to a high level of threat stung in 83% of the observations and released a milky venom. Our results suggest that T. stigmurus reacts differently depending on the stimulus level. When the threat was considered high, the animal reacted more aggressively. Our results support the assumption that milky venom is only used when the animal is highly stressed because this venom represents higher metabolic costs than the production of clear venom.


Risk assessment Defensive stinging Venom-metering hypothesis Brazil 



We are grateful to the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for granting a Ph.D. scholarship to A.F.A. Lira and a M.Sc. scholarship to A.B. Santos. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and to editor for valuable suggestions on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany and ISPA 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • André F.A. Lira
    • 1
  • Adriana B. Santos
    • 1
  • Nathália A. Silva
    • 2
  • René D. Martins
    • 2
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Animal, Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco – UFPERecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Centro Acadêmico de VitóriaUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco UFPEVitória de Santo AntãoBrazil

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