Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognised by the pair of grasping pedipalps and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger. Scorpions range in size from 9 mm (Typhlochactas mitchelli) to 20 cm (Hadogenes troglodytes).
Scorpions are found widely distributed over all continents, except Antarctica, in a variety of terrestrial habitats except the high latitude tundra. Scorpions number about 1,752 described species, with 13 extant families recognised to date. The taxonomy has undergone changes and is likely to change further, as a number of genetic studies are bringing forth new information.
Scorpion venom has a fearsome reputation, but only about 25 out of almost 1500 species are known to have venom capable of killing a human being.
All known scorpion species possess venom and use it primarily to kill or paralyze their prey so that it can be eaten. In general, it is fast-acting, allowing for effective prey capture. It is also used as a defense against predators. The venom is a mixture of compounds (neurotoxins, enzyme inhibitors, etc.) each not only causing a different effect but possibly also targeting a specific animal. Each compound is made and stored in a pair of glandular sacs and is released in a quantity regulated by the scorpion itself. Of the 1,000+ known species of scorpion, only 25 have venom that is deadly to humans; most of those belong to the family Buthidae (including Leiurus quinquestriatus, Hottentotta, Centruroides and Androctonus).
First aid for scorpion stings is generally symptomatic. It includes strong analgesia, either systemic (opiates or paracetamol) or locally applied (such as a cold compress). Hypertensive crises are treated with anxiolytics and vasodilators.