25 May, 2012

Phylogeographic patterns of Buthus from Europe and Northern Africa

In the last decade several new species of Buthus Leach, 1815 have been described from southern Europe and North Africa. In spite of this, the morphological identification of the Buthus species is still very difficult, mainly because of many descriptions and the few keys available use ambiguous and difficult characters.

Sousa and co-workers have recently published a very interesting paper that is the first step in the process of understanding the taxonomy and phylogeny of the genus Buthus.

The genus Buthus is a medium diverse scorpion genus, with 35 species distributed from Portugal and Morocco ranging eastward to Yemen in the Arabic Peninsula. The bulk of the genus’ known species diversity occurs in the Western Mediterranean area. A recent molecular study started to elucidate the patterns of diversity of this genus in the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb. Since then, the taxonomy of the genus has changed substantially, with several new species having been described, and with the elevation of former subspecies to species-level. In this study, we assessed the patterns of diversity of Buthus scorpions from across the Maghreb region of North Africa using CO1 DNA sequence data. Based on our dataset of 147 sequences, including 67 new sequences, we recovered four wellsupported deep clades within Buthus scorpions from the Maghreb and Southern Europe. This further strengthens the support for cryptic diversity in the Maghreb region. The broader sampling of the Maghreb permitted a better understanding of the phylogeographic structure in this area. Three clades were restricted to Morocco and appear to have originated at the Atlantic Coast of this country, while the fourth was found throughout the region. We propose a model with two colonizing events to explain the distribution patterns across the Strait of Gibraltar, with an initial colonization from North Africa to Iberia followed by a reinvasion of the Rif Mountains region in Morocco.

Sousa P, Harris DJ, Froufe E, Van der Meijden A. Phylogeographic patterns of Buthus scorpions (Scorpiones: Buthidae) in the Maghreb and South-Western Europe based on CO1 mtDNA sequences. J Zool. 2012. Published ahead of print. [Subscription required for full text]

Family Buthidae

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