10 December, 2010

Mesobuthus eupeus - a species complex?

Mesobuthus eupeus (C. L. Koch, 1839) is the most widely dispersed species in the genus Mesobuthus and even one of the most widespread species within the family Buthidae. It has been reported from eastern and central parts of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, southern Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, southern Mongolia and northern China. Several subspecies have been described with varying degrees of morphological variations.

Omid Mirshamsi and co-workers have now published a paper on the phylogenetic relationships of Mesobuthus eupeus based on genetic analysis of 59 specimens. The resulting data indicate two distinct lineages within the species, suggesting that it may be a species complex consiting of at least two species. More studies are necessary though, before any taxonomic decisions can be made.

In this study, the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of Mesobuthus eupeus in Iran is presented based on sequence data of a ∼ 700-base-pair fragment of cytochrome C oxidase, subunit I. Phylogenetic relationships were inferred using parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference. The results support monophyly of M. eupeus, but there is a clear divergence between northern and southern clades. The northern clade includes four subspecies – M. e. eupeus, M. e. philippovitschi, M. e. afghanus and M. e. thersites; whereas the southern clade is comprised of two others – M. e. phillipsi and M. e. kirmanensis. Accordingly, possible scenarios for the evolution and phylogeographic structure of M. eupeus based on the geological history of the Iranian Plateau were proposed. The observation of two distinct lineages supports the proposal that M. eupeus might be a species complex composed of species with highly similar morphological features.

Mirshamsi O, Sari A, Elahi E, Hosseinie S. Phylogenetic relationships of Mesobuthus eupeus (C.L. Koch, 1839) inferred from COI sequences (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Journal of Natural History. 2010;44(47):2851-72.

Thanks to Dr. Mirshamsi for sending me this paper!

Family Buthidae

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