23 December, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I wish you alle a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you all in 2014 with new and interesting scorpion news.

Best wishes

Jan Ove Rein
Editor of The Scorpion Files

19 December, 2013

The evolution of scorpion venom

An artcile on the origin and diversification of scorpion venom has been recently published by Kartik Sunagar and co-workers.
All scorpions possess venom and and a few species have venom which can cause death or serious symptoms in humans. The venom of one species is a cocktail of different toxins and there is such a cocktail for each scorpion species. But how did these different venoms evolve?

Kartik Sunagar and co-workers have now published a study on scorpion venom evolution. Lacking biochemistry and molecular biology in my education this article is a little over my head, so I just refer to the abstract for the conclusions :)

The episodic nature of natural selection and the accumulation of extreme sequence divergence in venom-encoding genes over long periods of evolutionary time can obscure the signature of positive Darwinian selection. Recognition of the true biocomplexity is further hampered by the limited taxon selection, with easy to obtain or medically important species typically being the subject of intense venom research, relative to the actual taxonomical diversity in nature. This holds true for scorpions, which are one of the most ancient terrestrial venomous animal lineages. The family Buthidae that includes all the medically significant species has been intensely investigated around the globe, while almost completely ignoring the remaining non-buthid families. Australian scorpion lineages, for instance, have been completely neglected, with only a single scorpion species (Urodacus yaschenkoi) having its venom transcriptome sequenced. Hence, the lack of venom composition and toxin sequence information from an entire continent’s worth of scorpions has impeded our understanding of the molecular evolution of scorpion venom. The molecular origin, phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary histories of most scorpion toxin scaffolds remain enigmatic. In this study, we have sequenced venom gland transcriptomes of a wide taxonomical diversity of scorpions from Australia, including buthid and non-buthid representatives. Using state-of-art molecular evolutionary analyses, we show that a majority of CSα/β toxin scaffolds have experienced episodic influence of positive selection, while most non-CSα/β linear toxins evolve under the extreme influence of negative selection. For the first time, we have unraveled the molecular origin of the major scorpion toxin scaffolds, such as scorpion venom single von Willebrand factor C-domain peptides (SV-SVC), inhibitor cystine knot (ICK), disulphide-directed beta-hairpin (DDH), bradykinin potentiating peptides (BPP), linear non-disulphide bridged peptides and antimicrobial peptides (AMP). We have thus demonstrated that even neglected lineages of scorpions are a rich pool of novel biochemical components, which have evolved over millions of years to target specific ion channels in prey animals, and as a result, possess tremendous implications in therapeutics.

Sunagar K, Undheim E, Chan A, Koludarov I, Muñoz-Gómez S, Antunes A, et al. Evolution Stings: The Origin and Diversification of Scorpion Toxin Peptide Scaffolds. Toxins. 2013;5(12):2456-87. [Free full text]

Thanks to Bryan Fry for sending me this article!

A new Pseudouroctonus from Nevada, USA

A new species of Pseudouroctonus has been found in Spring Mountains in Nevada, USA.

In the last years there have been published several new species from isolated mountain areas in the USA. Amanda Tate and co-workers have now published a new species of Pseudouroctonus Stahnke, 1974 (Vaejovidae) from the Spring Mountains in Nevada, USA.

Pseudouroctonus peccatum Tate, Riddle, Soleglad & Graham, 2013

A new scorpion species is described from the Spring Mountain Range near Las Vegas, Nevada. The new species appears to be geographically isolated from other closely related species of Uroctonites Williams & Savary and Pseudouroctonus Stahnke. We tentatively place the new species in Pseudouroctonus and provide detailed descriptions and illustrations of type material. We compare the new species to 17 congeneric taxa, briefly discuss the taxonomic history of Pseudouroctonus, and provide DNA barcodes for two paratypes to assist ongoing research on the systematics of family Vaejovidae.

Tate A, Riddle R, Soleglad M, Graham M. Pseudouroctonus peccatum, a new scorpion from the Spring Mountains near "Sin City," Nevada (Scorpiones, Vaejovidae). ZooKeys. 2013;364:29-45. [Free full text]

Thanks to Matthew Graham for sending me this article!

Family Vaejovidae

17 December, 2013

A major redefinition and generic revision of the North American vaejovid scorpion subfamily Syntropinae is published

A major revision of the subfamily Syntropinae in Vaejovidae is published by Edmundo Gonzalez-Santillan and Lorenzo Prendini.
A huge paper revising the subfamily Syntropinae in Vaejovidae is recently published. This is a very extensive work, making many changes within the family Vaejovidae. Six new genera are described and one genus is abolished (synonymized). Also, I count six new species (many restored from subspecies or synonymization status). Because of the complexity of this paper I refer to the abstract below for a summary of the main taxonomical conclusions. The changes have been included in The Scorpion Files. Details can also be found in The Scorpion Files' Vaejovidae updates file.

The endemic North American vaejovid scorpion subfamily Syntropinae Kraepelin, 1905, is redefined and its component genera revised, based on a simultaneous phylogenetic analysis of 250 morphological characters and 4221 aligned DNA nucleotides from three mitochondrial and two nuclear gene markers. Tribe Stahnkeini Soleglad and Fet, 2006, is removed from Syntropinae. Tribe Paravaejovini Soleglad and Fet, 2008, and subtribe Thorelliina Soleglad and Fet, 2008, are abolished: Paravaejovini Soleglad and Fet, 2008 5 Syntropinae Kraepelin, 1905, syn. nov.; Thorelliina Soleglad and Fet, 2008 5 Syntropinae Kraepelin, 1905, syn. nov. Eleven genera, six newly described, are recognized within Syntropinae: Balsateres, gen. nov.; Chihuahuanus, gen. nov.; Kochius Soleglad and Fet, 2008; Konetontli, gen. nov.; Kuarapu Francke and Ponce-Saavedra, 2010; Maaykuyak, gen. nov.; Mesomexovis, gen. nov.; Paravaejovis Williams, 1980; Syntropis Kraepelin, 1900; Thorellius Soleglad and Fet, 2008; Vizcaino, gen. nov. Hoffmannius Soleglad and Fet, 2008, is abolished: Hoffmannius Soleglad and Fet, 2008 5 Paravaejovis Williams, 1980, syn. nov. Lissovaejovis Ponce-Saavedra and Beutelspacher, 2001 [nomen nudum] 5 Paravaejovis Williams, 1980, syn. nov. Ten species, formerly placed in Hoffmannius, are transferred to Paravaejovis: Paravaejovis confusus (Stahnke, 1940), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis diazi (Williams, 1970), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis eusthenura (Wood, 1863), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis flavus (Banks, 1900), comb. nov. [nomen dubium]; Paravaejovis galbus (Williams, 1970), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis gravicaudus (Williams, 1970), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis hoffmanni (Williams, 1970), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis puritanus (Gertsch, 1958), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis spinigerus (Wood, 1863), comb. nov.; Paravaejovis waeringi (Williams, 1970), comb. nov. Paravaejovis schwenkmeyeri (Williams, 1970), comb. nov., is removed from synonymy. Four species, formerly placed in Kochius, are transferred to Chihuahuanus, gen. nov.: Chihuahuanus cazieri (Williams, 1968), comb. nov.; Chihuahuanus crassimanus (Pocock, 1898), comb. nov.; Chihuahuanus kovariki (Soleglad and Fet, 2008), comb. nov.; Chihuahuanus russelli (Williams, 1971), comb. nov. Four species, formerly placed in Kochius, Thorellius, or Vaejovis C.L. Koch, 1836, are transferred to Mesomexovis, gen. nov.: Mesomexovis atenango (Francke and Gonza´ lez-Santilla´n, 2007), comb. nov.; Mesomexovis oaxaca (Santiba´n˜ ez-Lo´pez and Sissom, 2010), comb. nov.; Mesomexovis occidentalis (Hoffmann, 1931), comb. nov.; Mesomexovis subcristatus (Pocock, 1898), comb. nov. Mesomexovis variegatus (Pocock, 1898), comb. nov., is reinstated to its original rank as species. Four subspecies are newly elevated to species: Kochius barbatus (Williams, 1971), stat. nov.; Kochius cerralvensis (Williams, 1971), stat. nov.; Kochius villosus (Williams, 1971), stat. nov.; Mesomexovis spadix (Hoffmann, 1931), comb. et stat. nov. Three subspecies are synonymized: Vaejovis diazi transmontanus Williams, 1970 5 Paravaejovis diazi (Williams, 1970), syn. nov.; Vaejovis bruneus loretoensis Williams, 1971 5 Kochius villosus (Williams, 1971), syn. nov.; Vaejovis hoffmanni fuscus Williams, 1970 5 Paravaejovis hoffmanni (Williams, 1970), syn. nov.

Gonzalez-Santillan E, Prendini L. Redefinition and generic revision of the North American vaejovid scorpion subfamily Syntropinae Kraepelin, 1905, with descriptions of six new genera. Bulletin of The American Museum of Natural History. 2013 (382):1-71. [Free full text]

Thanks to Edmundo Gonzalez-Santillan for informing me about his impressive work!

Family Vaejovidae

12 December, 2013

Rhopalurus feeding on large centipedes

A Cuban Rhopalurus feeding on a Scolopendra centipede.
Centipedes and scorpions are top invertebrate predators in many ecosystems and will prey on each other when the opportunity arises. Size and the venom potency of the involved species are probably key in determinating the outcome of these encounters.  Alejandro Barro and Tamara Cherva has published a research note describing Rhopalurus predation on Scolopendra centipedes in Cuba.

No abstract.

Barro A, Cherva T. Depredación de Scolopendra alternans (Chilopoda: Scolopendromorpha) por Rhopalurus junceus (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Revista Cubana de Ciencias Biologicas. 2013;2(2):77-8.[Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Rolando Teruel for sending me this paper.

New data on the distribution of Rhopalurus in the Caribbean

New reccords of Rhopalurus laticauda in the southern Caribbean islands is presented in a recently published study.
Rolando Teruel and Michiel Cozijn have recently published a paper on the distribution of the buthid genus Rhopalurus in the southern Caribbean islands.

In the present note, we report on the occurrence of the genus Rhopalurus Thorell, 1898, in the southern Caribbean islands offshore Venezuela. The only published records are from Isla Margarita and Los Roques, but our study of new specimens (including an important collection assembled by the late Pieter Wagenaar Hummelinck) proved this genus to be widely distributed along several archipelagos such as Los Testigos, Los Frailes, and Los Hermanos, as well as the larger, separate islands of Margarita, Cubagua, La Tortuga, and Coche. These specimens are tentatively referred here to Rhopalurus laticauda Thorell, 1876, but their precise identity still warrants further study.

Teruel R, Cozijn MAC. On the distribution of the genus Rhopalurus Thorell, 1876 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) in the southern Caribbean islands. Euscorpius. 2013 (179):1-7. [Free full text]

11 December, 2013

Phylogeography of the highly complex genus Buthus

Phylogenetic relationships of Buthus in a recently published study in African Zoology.
The genus Buthus Leach, 1815 is probably one of the most speciose, widespread and taxonomical complex taxa in the family Buthidae. In recent years, many species have been described, but the taxonomic and phylogenetic status of the genus is far from resolved.

Diana Pedroso and co-workers have now published an extensive phylogeographic analysis of the genus Buthus based on genetic studies. One conclusion of this study is that there is a lack of congruence between morphologically defines species and the genetic lineages identified in this study. This is a major hindrance in the study of the complex Buthus genus.

The distribution of the scorpion genus Buthus Leach, 1815 includes southwestern Europe, North and Central Africa and extends east towards the Arabian Peninsula. Phylogenetic relationships within the genus are complex and remain partially unresolved despite several previous assessments. A set of three mitochondrial markers, 12s, 16s and CO1, revealed the presence of five well-supported clades: three clades endemic to Morocco, one clade distributed across the Maghreb region and southwestern Europe and one endemic to Tunisia and Algeria. Morocco presents high levels of endemism and appears to be the centre of diversity for the genus. Further differentiation was found within the clade distributed in Tunisia and Algeria, with the discovery of new phylogenetic patterns. In addition, a phylogeny combining all published CO1 data for the genus emphasized the ongoing complex situation regarding the genus’ taxonomy. Highly similar sequences were attributed to different species by different authors throughout the tree, and no differentiated monophyletic species could be resolved. This lack of congruence between morphologically defined species and genetic lineages is a major hindrance in the study of the highly complex genus Buthus.

Pedroso D, Sousa P, Harris DJ, Van der meijden A. Phylogeography of Buthus Leach, 1815 (Scorpiones: Buthidae): a multigene molecular approach reveals a further complex evolutionary history in the Maghreb. African Zoology. 2013;48(2):298-308. [Free full text]

Thanks to Arie Van der Meijden for sending me his paper!

A new species of Babycurus from northern Cameroon

The genus Babycurus from Western Africa is one of the most complex buthid genera in that region. A new species is now described from northern Cameroon.

Wilson Lourenco has recently published a description of a new species of Babycurus Karsch, 1886 (Buthidae) from northern Cameroon.

Babycurus prudenti Lourenco, 2013

A new scorpion species, Babycurus prudenti sp. n., is described from the region of Garoua in the north of Cameroon. The new species is characterized by a smaller total body size as compared to the other species of the genus, and a general golden yellow to orange-testaceous coloration with some very diffuse fuscosity. This species, a possible endemic element from the savannah formation of northern Cameroon, provides further evidence regarding the unsuspected scorpion richness of this region.

Lourenco W. A new species of Babycurus Karsch, 1886 from northern Cameroon (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Arthropoda Selecta. 2013;22(4):343-8.

Thanks to professor Lourenco for sending me his paper!

Family Buthidae

09 December, 2013

A new species of Tityus from Suriname and Guyana

Tityus carolineae is a new species from Suriname and Guyana.
Frantisek Kovarik and co-workers have recently described a new species of Tityus C. L. Koch, 1836 (Buthidae) from Suriname and Guyana.

Tityus carolineae Kovarik, Teruel, Cozijn & Seiter, 2013

Tityus carolineae sp. n. from Suriname and Guyana is described and compared with other species of the "Tityus metuendus" complex, inside the "Tityus asthenes" group. Tityus carolineae sp. n. is the largest species of this com-plex, with total length of males 82–100 mm.

Kovarik F, Teruel R, Cozijn MAC, Seiter M. Tityus carolineae sp. n. from Suriname and Guyana (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Euscorpius. 2013 (178):1-9. [Free full text]

Family Buthidae

05 December, 2013

On the endemic Galapagos scorpion Centruroides exsul

The holotype of the endemic Galapagos scorpion Centruroides exsul (Meise, 1933).
Markus Lambertz has recently published a paper discussing the publication date for the endemic Galapagos scorpion Centruroides exsul (Meise, 1933) (Buthidae). Based on his investigations, he concludes that this species was described in 1933 and not in 1934 as previously thought.

Interestingly for me, this is one of probably very few scorpions that have been published in a Norwegian journal (and it was also collected by a Norwegian zoologist).

There are conflicting statements in the literature about the date and organ of publication for the endemic Gala´pagos scorpion Centruroides exsul (Scorpiones: Buthidae) by Wilhelm Meise. In contrast to what the current authoritative taxonomic references suggest, this species was not described in 1934 but rather in 1933. Before the article containing the description finally was included in Volume 74 of the Norwegian journal Nyt Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne in 1934, it was distributed as a preprint in the form of Volume 39 of the separately issued series Meddelelser fra det Zoologiske Museum, Oslo in 1933. The latter publication, in full agreement with Article 21.8 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, has priority over the former and consequently has to be referred to when citing the original taxonomic reference. The present contribution furthermore reviews the distribution of this species and, due to loss and mislabeling, revises its type material.

Lambertz M. On the date and organ of publication for the endemic Galápagos scorpion Centruroides exsul (Scorpiones: Buthidae) by Wilhelm Meise, with a revision of its distribution and type material. Journal of Arachnology. 2013;41(3):412-4. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Michael Seiter and Gerard Dupre for sending me this paper!

Family Buthidae

03 December, 2013

An updated review of the scorpions of Saudi Arabia

A new review of the scorpions of Saudi Arabia is published.
Abdulrahman Khazim Al-Asmari and co-workers have recently published a review of the scorpions of Saudi Arabia. Distribution in major regions are listed. Most species are illustrated with color pictures.

The scorpions of Saudi Arabia were surveyed in the major regions of Jazan, Al-Medina, Al-Baha, Hail, and Riyadh, in addition to nine provinces surveyed more superficially. Jazan (1,440 specimens) had 10 buthids and two scorpionid species and subspecies; Al-Medina (867) had seven buthid and two scorpionid species and subspecies, one of which, the scorpionid Scorpio maurus (palmatus?), needs further confirmation of identity. The Al-Baha region (2421 specimens) contained five buthids and two scorpionid species and subspecies; Hail (1,921) had eight buthid and two scorpionid species and subspecies - the most common subspecies here was Scorpio maurus kruglovi. Androctonus crassicauda and Leiurus quinquestriatus were only found in Hail and Al-Baha; Androctonus bicolor was newly recorded in Hail and Riyadh. Riyadh (4,164 specimens) had nine buthid, one scorpionid and at least two hemiscorpiid species and subspecies. The Saudi fauna was found to comprise at least 28 species and subspecies of the families Buthidae, Scorpionidae and Hemiscorpiidae.

Al-Asmari AK, Al-Saif, Abdulaziz Abdalla, Abdo, Nasreddien Mohammed, Al-Moutaery KR, Al-Harbi NO. A review of the scorpion fauna of Saudi Arabia. Egyptian Journal of Natural History. 2013;6:1-21. [Free full text]

Thanks to Gerard Dupre for sending me this paper!