21 February, 2017

A new Hottentotta species from India

Kuruppalath Aswathi and co-workers have recently described a new species of Hottentotta Birula, 1908 (Buthidae) from the Kerala region in India.

Hottentotta keralaensis Aswhati, Sureshan & Lourenço, 2016

A new species of scorpion, Hottentotta keralaensis sp. n. is described. The type material was collected in a Thorn Scrub forest, a part of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The description of the new species raised the total number of Hottentotta Birula, 1908 species into two in the Kerala state, South of India.

Aswhati K, Sureshan PM, Lourenço WR. One more new species of Hottentotta Birula, 1908 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) from the State of Kerala in South of India. Aracnida - Rivista Arachnologica Italiana. 2016;2(10):34-44.

Thanks to Kuruppalath Aswathi for sending me their paper!

Family Buthidae

16 February, 2017

New study suggest that the widely distributed Aussi scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi is a species complex

Australian scorpions have received less attention that scorpions from other continents. Karen Luna-Ramirez and co-workers have recently published a study of the widely distributed scorpion Urodacus yaschenko (Birula, 1903) (Scorpionidae). Both genetic and morphological data suggest that U. yaschenkoi is a species complex, consisting of three or more species. More specimens from different areas should be studied and a revision of the species should be made in the future before final conclusions can be made.

Background. Australian scorpions have received far less attention from researchers than their overseas counterparts. Here we provide the first insight into the molecular variation and evolutionary history of the endemic Australian scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi. Also known as the inland robust scorpion, it is widely distributed throughout arid zones of the continent and is emerging as a model organism in biomedical research due to the chemical nature of its venom.

Methods. We employed Bayesian Inference (BI) methods for the phylogenetic reconstructions and divergence dating among lineages, using unique haplotype sequences from two mitochondrial loci (COXI, 16S) and one nuclear locus (28S). We also
implemented two DNA taxonomy approaches (GMYC and PTP/dPTP) to evaluate the presence of cryptic species. Linear Discriminant Analysis was used to test whether the linear combination of 21 variables (ratios of morphological measurements) can predict individual's membership to a putative species.

Results. Genetic and morphological data suggest that U. yaschenkoi is a species complex. High statistical support for the monophyly of several divergent lineages was found both at the mitochondrial loci and at a nuclear locus. The extent of mitochondrial divergence between these lineages exceeds estimates of interspecific divergence reported for other scorpion groups. The GMYC model and the PTP/bPTP approach identified major lineages and several sub-lineages as putative species. Ratios of several traits that approximate body shape had a strong predictive power (83 100%) in discriminating
two major molecular lineages. A time-calibrated phylogeny dates the early divergence at the onset of continental-wide aridification in late Miocene and Pliocene, with finer-scale phylogeographic patterns emerging during the Pleistocene. This structuring dynamics is congruent with the diversification history of other fauna of the Australian arid zones.

Discussion. Our results indicate that the taxonomic status of U. yaschenkoi requires revision, and we provide recommendations for such future efforts. A complex evolutionary history and extensive diversity highlights the importance of conserving U. yaschenkoi populations from different Australian arid zones in order to preserve patterns of endemism and evolutionary potential.

Luna-Ramirez K, Miller AD, Rasic G. Genetic and morphological analyses indicate that the Australian endemic scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi (Scorpiones: Urodacidae) is a species complex. PeerJ. 2017;5:e2759. [Open Access]

A scorpion from Guatemala on a visit to England

Scorpions sneaking into luggage, goods etc. and ending up as stowaways in non-scorpion countries is quite common. Several cases have been documented in journals and newspapers. A recent case from England was published by Rony E. Trujillo and co-workers. In this case, a female Centruroides thorellii (Kraepelin, 1891) (Buthidae) from Guatemala was found in the luggage of a family in England (that recently had visited Guatemala).

We recorded a pregnant female of the Central American bark stripped scorpion Centruroides thorellii (Kraepelin, 1891), which arrived to England as a stowaway in the bag of a woman that previously visited the Departments of Sacatepéquez, Sololá and San Marcos, Guatemala. On January 2, this C. thorellii female had a litter of three off-spring and three infertile eggs, but she has eaten them, probably as consequence of the stress caused by the hard travel and the environmental changes. We provide a map with the geographical distribution of this species and photos of the female detected in a British train.

Trujillo RE, De Armas LF, Mansfield D. Centruroides thorellii (Scorpiones: Buthidae): Traveling from Guatemala to England Without a Passport. Euscorpius. 2017(239):1-4. [Open Access]

Thanks to Rony E. Trujillo for sending me his paper!

09 February, 2017

A major review of the genus Pandinus Sensu Lato and new species from the Horn of Africa

In the last years several there have been several studies on the genus Pandinus Sensu Lato and several new genera and species have been described. In October, 2016, Lorenzo Prendini published an review article, trying to sort out the situation for Pandinus Sensu Lato and criticized some of the previous work on this taxa.

In a recent article in the series "Scorpions of the Horn of Africa", Frantisek Kovarik and co-workers follow up on Prendini's criticism and present a new taxonomy for Pandinus Sensu Lato based on new materials from the Horn of Africa. This is a major review with many taxonomical changes and four new species. This is the main taxonomical conclusions of this article:

New species/status:

Pandiborellius Rossi, 2015 - Raised from subgenus status.
Pandiborellius awashensis (Kovarik, 2012) - Previous status Pandinus awashensis Kovarik, 2012.
Pandiborellius igdu Kovarik, Lowe, Soleglad & Pliskova, 2017 - New species from Ethiopia.
Pandiborellius insularis Kovarik, Lowe, Soleglad & Pliskova, 2017 - New species from Eritrea.
Pandiborellius lanzai (Rossi 2015) - Previous status Pandinus lanzai Rossi 2015.
Pandiborellius magretti (Borelli, 1901) - Previous status Pandinus magretti (Borelli, 1901).
Pandiborellius meidensis (Karsch, 1879) - Previous status Pandinurus meidensis (Karsch, 1879).
Pandiborellius nistriae (Rossi, 2014) - Previous status Pandinurus nistrae (Rossi, 2014).
Pandiborellius percivali (Pocock, 1902) - Previous status Pandinurus percivali (Pocock, 1902).
Pandiborellius somalilandus (Kovarik, 2012) - Previous status Pandinurus somalilandus (Kovarik, 2012).

Pandinopsis Vachon, 1974 - Returned to subgenus status in Pandinus (Thorell, 1876).

Pandinurus afar Kovarik, Lowe, Soleglad & Pliskova, 2017 - New species from Ethiopia.
Pandinurus citernii (Borelli, 1919) - Restored from synonymy with P. phillipsii (Pocock, 1896).
Pandinurus intermedius (Borelli, 1919) - Restored from synonymy with P. phillipsii (Pocock, 1896).
Pandinurus mazuchi (Kovarik, 2011) - Previous status Pandinus mazuchi Kovarik, 2011.
Pandinurus oromo Kovarik, Lowe, Soleglad & Pliskova, 2017 - New species from Ethiopia.
Pandinurus phillipsii (Poocock, 1896) - Restored from synonymy.
Pandinurus smithi (Pocock, 1897) - Previous status Pandinus smithi (Pocock, 1897).
Pandinurus trailini (Kovarik, 2013) - Previous status Pandinus trailini Kovarik, 2013.

Pandinus dictator (Pocock, 1888) - Previous status  Pandinopsis dictator (Pocock, 1888).
Pandinus lowei Kovarik, 2012 - Previous status  Pandinurus lowei (Kovarik, 2012).
Pandinus viatoris (Pocock, 1890) - Previous status  Pandinurus viatoris (Pocock, 1890).


Pandinurus bottegoi Rossi 2015 - Synonymized with Pandinurus platycheles (Werner, 1916). 
Pandinurus cianferonii Rossi 2015 - Synonymized with Pandinurus pallidus (Kraepelin, 1894).
Pandinurus riccardoi Rossi 2015 - Synonymized with Pandinurus platycheles (Werner, 1916).
Pandinus sabbadinii Rossi 2015 - Synonymized with Pandiborellius magretti (Borelli, 1901).
Pandinurus vachoni Rossi 2014 - Synonymized with Pandinurus sudanicus (Hirst, 1911). 

The article also present several identification keys and also high quality photos of both species and habitats.

We introduce a new system of classification for the subfamily Scorpioninae Latreille, 1802 which includes genera Heterometrus Ehrenberg, 1828, Opistophthalmus C. L. Koch, 1837, Pandiborellius Rossi, 2015 stat. n., Pandinoides Fet, 1997, Pandinops Birula, 1913, Pandinurus Fet, 1997, Pandinus (Pandinus) Thorell, 1876, Pandinus (Pandinopsis) Vachon, 1974 stat. n., Pandinus (Pandipalpus) Rossi, 2015 stat. n., and Scorpio Linné, 1758. We provide a checklist of 41 valid species and their synonyms of Pandinus sensu lato. We revise Horn of Africa genera Pandiborellius stat. n. and Pandinurus; all species are fully complemented with color photos of live and preserved specimens, as well as their habitat. Included are morphological keys to the subfamily Scorpioninae and genera Pandiborellius stat. n. and Pandinurus. Several new characters in trichobothrial pattern, granulation of pedipalp movable and fixed fingers and spiniform formula of tarsomeres of legs are used and discussed. Described herein are Pandiborellius igdu sp. n. from Ethiopia, Pandiborellius insularis sp. n. from Eritrea, Pandinurus afar sp. n. from Ethiopia, and Pandinurus oromo sp. n. from Ethiopia. Pandinurus citernii (Borelli, 1919) comb. n. and Pandinurus intermedius (Borelli, 1919) comb. n. are restored from synonymy. Pandinurus (Pandipavesius) Rossi, 2015 is synonymized with Pandiborellius Rossi, 2015 stat. n.; Pandinus (Pandinoirens) Rossi, 2015 is synonymized with Pandinurus Fet, 1997; Pandinurus (Pandiborellius) sabbadinii Rossi, 2015 is synonymized with Pandiborellius magrettii (Borelli, 1901) comb. n.; Pandinurus (Pandinurus) cianferonii Rossi, 2015 is synonymized with Pandinurus pallidus (Kraepelin, 1894); Pandinus (Pandinoirens) riccardoi Rossi, 2015 and Pandinus (Pandinoirens) bottegoi Rossi, 2015 are synonymized with Pandinurus platycheles (Werner, 1916); Pandinus (Pandinurus) vachoni Rossi, 2014 is synonymized with Pandinurus sudanicus (Hirst, 1911); and Pandinurus (Pandipalpus) pygmaeus Rossi, 2015 is synonymized with Pandinus (Pandipalpus) lowei Kovařík, 2012 comb. n.. Hemispermatophores of Pandiborellius insularis sp. n., Pandinurus afar sp. n. and Pandinurus oromo sp. n are illustrated and described, and morphology of Pandinus sensu lato hemispermatophores is discussed.

Kovarik F, Lowe G, Soleglad ME, Pliskova J. Scorpions of the Horn of Africa (Arachnida: Scorpiones). Part X. Pandiborellius stat. n. and Pandinurus (Scorpionidae) with Description of Four New Species from Eritrea and Ethiopia, and Review of Pandinus Sensu Lato Taxonomy. Euscorpius. 2017(238):1-103. [Open Access]

Family Scorpionidae

31 January, 2017

Some biological aspects of the genus Brachistosternus in Chile

Andres Ojanguren Affilastro and co-workers recently published an article with new data on prey capture and habitat of the genus Brachistosternus Pocock, 1893 (Bothriruidae) in Chile. In addition, a new type of pedipalp macroseta was described.

New data about several aspects of the biology of scorpions of genus Brachistosternus of the Atacama Desert are provided. Predatory techniques on tenebrionid larvae, and large spiders in their burrows are described, as well as the method used to transport large preys. The habitat of Brachistosternus mattonii Ojanguren-Affilastro 2005, by the tide line, is described for the first time. Finally a new type of pedipalp macroseta of Bothriuridae is described.

Ojanguren Affilastro AA, Botero-Trujillo R, Castex A, Pizarro-Araya J. Biological aspects of the genus Brachistosternus (Bothriuridae) in the Atacama Desert (Chile), with the description of a new type of pedipalp macroseta. Gayana. 2016;80(2):169-74. [Open Access]

Thanks to Andres Ojanguren Affilastro for sending me their paper!

23 January, 2017

A new study on the anatomy of the scorpion stinger

Arie van der Meijden and Thomas Kleinteich have recently published a study on the diversity of the scorpion stinger. The stinger is an essential tool for scorpions and there is a great diversity in both anatomy and the use of the stinger. This study shows that scorpion stingers may be biomechanically optimized, and this may indicate different usage of the stinger in different species.

Scorpions have elongated metasomas that bear a telson, which is used as a stinger for venom injection. There is a remarkable diversity in the use of the stinger among scorpions, comprising defensive behavior, prey subjugation and mating. This diversity could be reflected by the shape of the telson, as different stinging behaviors will result in very different functional demands. Here we explored the diversity of telson shapes in scorpions by providing morphological measurements, such as curvature and tip angle, as well as by testing stingers under load using finite element analysis (FEA). FEA models were loaded with forces scaled to the surface area of the models, to allow comparison of the relative strain energy based on shape alone. Load force angle was rotated to identify the optimal stinging angle based on the lowest strain energy. Aculeus length and mean aculeus height correlated with minimal strain energy. Optimal stinging angle correlated with tip angle, and differed from the tip angle by about 28.4 6.22 °. We found that species that are more venomous have long aculei (stinger barbs) with a larger radius of curvature. FEA models of these longer aculei showed basal stress concentrations, indicating a potential greater risk of basal breakage due to shape alone. Telsons with shorter and thicker aculeus shapes showed stress concentrations at the tip only. Despite these marked differences in shape, we found no difference in the scaled strain energy between groups of species that are more venomous and less venomous groups of species. These results show that scorpion stingers may be biomechanically optimized, and this may indicate different usage of the stinger in different species.

van der Meijden A, Kleinteich T. A biomechanical view on stinger diversity in scorpions. J Anat. 2016. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Arie van der Meijden for sending me their article!

18 January, 2017

Scorpions inhabiting islands or archipelagos

Gerard Dupre has recently published a literature review listing all scorpion species that inhabit islands or archipelagos around the world. The article is in French.

The scorpions are spread across the continents in various biogeographical zones, confirming their extreme ecological plasticity. However, a number of them are quite deeply rooted outside the continental areas, namely on islands or archipelagos in numerous seas and oceans. We consulted many scientific texts of various authors about their distribution in the islands.

Dupre G. Etude preliminaire de la faune scorpionique insulaire. Aracnida - Rivista Arachnologica Italiana. 2016;2(10, Supplemento):3-80.

Thanks to Gerard for sending me his article!