18 May, 2009

Morphological variation in Mesobuthus martensii from China

Mesobuthus martensii (Buthidae) is a very common and widespread scorpion in China. The species has an important role in traditional Chinese medicine (and also in cocking in some areas), and over the past decade more than 70 different peptides or toxins have been isolated from the venom. Elements from the venom are often used as "tools" in biomedical and biochemical research (often under the old name Buthus martensii). The species is also seen in the western pet industry.

Zhang & Zhu has now published a study of the intraspecific geographic variation within this species. The study also compare M. martensii against the other Chinese species member of the genus, M. eupeus. It is concluded that these two species are indeed separate species with different ecological and habitat preferences (even though they are found sympatric in some areas).

Comparative statistical analysis of morphology of Mesobuthus martensii and Mesobuthus eupeus (Scorpiones: Buthidae) indicated highly significant differences between these two species. Mann-Whitney U test showed that: except Ca_L/AW, Ca_AW/PW and Met-V_L/H in female, Ca_AW/PW and Met-V_L/H in male, all morphometric ratios demonstrated significant differences between M. martensii and M. eupeus. Principal component analysis (PCA) showed that M. martensii and M eupeus are clearly different species in morphology. Three statistical analyses (Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA, PCA and cluster analysis) were applied to M.martensii from 27 confirmed localities in five provinces of northern China. The results suggested that: (a) Although M. martensii is common and widespread in northern China, its morphology does not vary significantly, but there is more variation in females than males, and the variation both in males and females is below species level; (b) the populations from Hebei, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Liaoning Provinces were similar to each other while the populations from Qinghai were separated from the others; (c) except Met-I_L/W and Met-V_L/W, each ratio of metasoma in both females and males of Qinghai populations was smaller and the ratio of Ca_L/AW was larger than those from other provinces.

Zhang L, Zhu MS. Morphological variation of Mesobuthus martensii (Karsch, 1879) (Scorpiones: Buthidae) in Northern China. Euscorpius. 2009; (81):1-18. [Free fulltext]

Family Buthidae

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