With a worldwide distribution of more than 1,400 species, only about 25 are believed to be life-threatening to humans. Mexico has the highest fatality rates in regards to scorpions, with about 1,000 fatalities per year. On the other hand, the Caribbean islands rarely experience a death from this arthropod, though there are indigenous types that can cause major illness and hospitalization.
Scorpions In the Caribbean
Scorpions are night feeders with their diet consisting of spiders, insects and other arthropods. During the daytime these invertebrates hide beneath rocks, bark, under logs or in loose soil. They may also take refuge in a dwelling, where they could hide in shoes or among other personal belongings of the occupants. Beside knowing about indigenous species, residents of the islands also need to be mindful of accidental importation from Mexico or South America.
Bark scorpions, genus Centruroides, are known to live in Cuba, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Hispanola and Tobago, yet their occurrence should not be ruled out on other islands. The Centruroides genus of these scorpions includes the deadly Mexican variety, but fortunately Centruroides gracilis and Centruroides griseu, the two Caribbean species, are a little less venomous. Still, they can produce enough of a wallop to require that scorpion antivenoms be available in the region. Small children and the elderly still could be at high risk if bitten.
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Tityus is another genus of island scorpion that must be dealt with from time to time. Within this scientific classification two species are worth being cautious with over: Tityus obtusus and T. trinitati. This genus is distributed all across Central and South American as well as the islands of Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago. The Brazilian yellow-tailed scorpion may be the most dangerous of this genus, but the less-toxic Caribbean species can cause medical problems.
Cuba has quite a few types of scorpions now found on the island, including one introduced species from Centruroides. The island nation also supports a biotech firm that for the last 15 years has been conducting research on treating carcinogenic tumors with an extraction of scorpion venom that is supplied to patients with cancer. The country has 13 facilities, each one home to about 5,000 Rophalorus junceus scorpions. As of 2011, there is no conclusive results about the treatment.