Denise Drozd


Scorpions are intriguing arthropods, with impressive morphological adaptations and complex behaviors. They can be found on all continents, except for Antarctica, where they inhabit mostly narrow shelters made of soil, rocks or wood. At dusk, they emerge from their hiding spots and start to forage for food or - when the season is right - look for suitable mating partners. For this, they are equipped with a wonderful repertoire of sensory structures on the whole body. The venomous stinger (aculeus) and the pincers (pedipalps) are the most notable characteristics of scorpions, which are used for both hunting and mating, but they have also other, more inconspicious adaptations for a life in darkness. The two median eyes on top of the carapax are very light-sensitive and can collect small amounts of light emanating from the moon or the stars to navigate in dim light conditions on the open field. For visual motion detection, they use their up to five lateral eyes on the rim of the carapax. But nevertheless, tactile and chemosensory stimuli are particularly important sensory qualities to detect close-range information about the environment. Scorpions - as all chelicerates - do not have antennae as primary sensory organs for probing the environment. Therefore, other areas of their body are used for chemo- and mechanosensory perception. The pectines are specialized comb-like appendages, which are unique to scorpions and are used as primary chemosensory organs. They are found on the ventral side of the body, posterior to the genital oriffice and are subdivided into different areas with different specialized sensilla. Joints and muscles allow for flexible adjustments of these organs and help to position them according to the need of the scorpion. They can be lowered to analyze the substrate regarding chemosensory traces of suitable mates, prey or enemies and tactile information like structure and composition of the substrate. No other invertebrate has these kinds of  strange appendages. Therefore, it is a dear interest of mine not only to study the morphological characteristics of the pectines but also to investigate the neurobiological aspects of chemosensory and mechanosensory processing in the nervous system of scorpions. Not much is known about the neuroanatomical architecture and the specific function of the different pectine neuropil parts which process sensory information from the pectines. My scientific interest lies in unraveling the mystery of how scorpions compute chemo- and mechanosensory input compared to other invertebrates which are better understood and to use this information to get inights about the phylogeny of chelicerates and the evolution of primary chemosensory systems.



Drozd D, Wolf H, Stemme T (2019) Neuroanatomical architecture of the scorpion primary chemosensory system and its map-like innervation by afferent fibers. In progress.


Drozd D (2018) Topographic Organization of the Pectine Neuropils in Scorpions. An Analysis of Chemosensory Afferents and the Projection Pattern in the Central Nervous System. Springer Spektrum, Wiesbaden. Part of the Best Masters Book Series.

Conference contributions


Drozd D, Wolf H, Stemme T (2019) Map-like representation of chemosensory input in the synganglion of two scorpion species. 30th Neurobiology Doctoral Students Workshop (NeuroDoWo), University Würzburg, Germany; 28-31 August (oral presentation).

Wolf H, Drozd D, Stemme T (2019) Chemosensory pathways in scorpions and sun spiders. Poster presentation 33, Gordon Research Conference 2019 on Behavior, Evolution and Neurobiology (Multimodal Strategies for Behavioral Control: Molecules, Neurons, Circuits and Behavior), Mount Snow, Vermont, USA; 28 July - 02 August (poster).


Drozd D, Wolf H, Stemme T (2018) Sensory projections of pectines in the scorpion nervous system. 5th Arthropod Neuroscience Network Satellite Symposioum at the 110th Annual Meeting of German Zoological Society (DZG), University Greifswald, Germany; 10-15 September (oral presentation).

Stemme T, Drozd D, Wolf H (2018) Primary chemosensory pathways in scorpions and sun spiders. Arthropod Neuroscience Network Spring Meeting; Altleiningen, Germany; 27 - 29 March (poster).


Drozd D, Wolf H, Stemme T (2017) Sensory projections of pectines in the scorpion nervous system. 110th Annual Meeting of the German Zoological Society (DZG), University Bielefeld, Germany; 12 - 15 September (poster).




Portrait Denise Drozd


We work on the Neuroethology and Morphology in different taxa of chelicerates
We work on the Neuroethology and Morphology in different taxa of chelicerates
Scorpion species examined and their pectines. A: Mesobuthus on sandy ground. B: Paired pectine organ of Mesobuthus, ventral orientation. C: Heterometrus petersii in defence position. D: Paired pectine organ of Heterometrus petersii, ventral orientation
Scorpion species examined and their pectine organs