23 February, 2018

On the phylogenetic placement of the family Bothriuridae and new insight into the complicated high-level scorpion systematics

The higher level phylogeny and systematics of scorpions is complicated and there are several models for this. Prashant P. Sharmaa and several co-workers have now published an article on the phylogenetic placement of the family Bothriuridae. The article also presents new data on the high- level scorpion systematics and the first phylogenomic dating of the arachnid order Scorpiones.

The scorpion family Bothriuridae occupies a subset of landmasses formerly constituting East and West temperate Gondwana, but its relationship to other scorpion families is in question. Whereas morphological data have strongly supported a sister group relationship of Bothriuridae and the superfamily Scorpionoidea, a recent phylogenomic analysis recovered a basal placement of bothriurids within Iurida, albeit sampling only a single exemplar. Here we reexamined the phylogenetic placement of the family Bothriuridae, sampling six bothriurid exemplars representing both East and West Gondwana, using transcriptomic data. Our results demonstrate that the sister group relationship of Bothriuridae to the clade (“Chactoidea”+Scorpionoidea) is supported by the inclusion of additional bothriurid taxa, and that this placement is insensitive to matrix completeness or partitioning by evolutionary rate. We also estimated divergence times within the order Scorpiones using multiple fossil calibrations, to infer whether the family Bothriuridae is sufficiently old to be characterized as a true Gondwanan lineage. We show that scorpions underwent ancient diversification between the Devonian and early Carboniferous. The age interval of the bothriurids sampled (a derived group that excludes exemplars from South Africa) spans the timing of breakup of temperate Gondwana.

Sharma PP, Baker CM, Cosgrove JG, Johnson JE, Oberski JT, Raven RJ, et al. A revised dated phylogeny of scorpions: Phylogenomic support for ancient divergence of the temperate Gondwanan family Bothriuridae. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2018;122:37-45. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Matt Simon for informing me about this article!

Family Bothriuridae

Two new species in the vaejovid genus Kovarikia from California, USA

The last decades have revealed many new species that have been morphologically "hidden" in species complexes. Fortunately, the development in DNA sequencing and species delimitation modeling has made it easier for taxonomist to find and describe similar-looking, yet evolutionary distinct species.

In a recent article, Robert Bryson Jr. and co-workers have described two new species in the enigmatic genus Kovarikia Soleglad, Fet & Graham, 2014 (Vaejovidae) that are endemic to California, USA.

Kovarikia oxy Bryson, Graham & Soleglad, 2018

Kovarikia savaryi Bryson, Graham & Soleglad, 2018

The article has an identification key for the genus Kovarikia.

Morphologically conserved taxa such as scorpions represent a challenge to delimit. We recently discovered populations of scorpions in the genus Kovarikia Soleglad, Fet & Graham, 2014 on two isolated mountain ranges in southern California. We generated genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism data and used Bayes factors species delimitation to compare alternative species delimitation scenarios which variously placed scorpions from the two localities with geographically adjacent species or into separate lineages. We also estimated a time-calibrated phylogeny of Kovarikia and examined and compared the morphology of preserved specimens from across its distribution. Genetic results strongly support the distinction of two new lineages, which we describe and name here. Morphology among the species of Kovarikia was relatively conserved, despite deep genetic divergences, consistent with recent studies of stenotopic scorpions with limited vagility. Phylogeographic structure discovered in several previously described species also suggests additional cryptic species are probably present in the genus.

Bryson Jr RW, Wood DA, Graham MR, Soleglad ME, McCormack JE. Genome-wide SNP data and morphology support the distinction of two new species of Kovarikia Soleglad, Fet & Graham, 2014 endemic to California (Scorpiones, Vaejovidae). ZooKeys. 2018(739):79-106. [Open Access]

Family Vaejovidae

21 February, 2018

First report of a Liocheles/Hormuridae from Sri Lanka

Holidays can be used for many things. As me, Alexander Ullrich looks for scorpions when being on holiday. And this time his holiday activities in Sri Lanka resulted in finding the first scorpion in the family Hormuridae on the island, more precisely the species Liocheles australasiae (Fabricius, 1775). The finding is presented in a recently published article authored by Frantisek Kovarik and co-workers.

Liocheles australasiae (Fabricius, 1775) is reported for the first time from Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan population is fully complemented with color photos of live and preserved females, as well as its habitat.

Kovarik F, Ranawana KB, Sanjeewa Jayarathne VA, Karunarathna S, Ullrich A. Scorpions of Sri Lanka (Arachnida, Scorpiones). Part II. Family Hormuridae. Euscorpius. 2018(258):1-5. [Open Access]

Family Hormuridae

20 February, 2018

Scorpionism in the Shiraz Province in Iran and Hotentotta jayakari as a medical important species

Hossein Sanaei-Zadeh and co-workers published an article on the scorpionism in the Shiraz Province in Iran in late 2017. I refer to the abstract and the article for details, but will mention one interesting and inportant conclusion: The article reports about sting cases involving Hottentotta jayakari (Pocock, 1895) (Buthidae) and concludes that this species should be listed as medical important (at least in Iran).

Background: Scorpionism is a public health problem in some provinces in Iran. The present study aimed to assess the clinical manifestations of scorpion envenomation in Shiraz and determine a clinical severity grading for Iranian scorpion envenomation in order to suggest a treatment guideline for emergency physicians.

Methods: In this analytic retrospective study, all medical charts of patients with scorpion sting admitted in the adult medical toxicology center in Shiraz during July 2012 to July 2016 were assessed. Data regarding the patient's age, gender, sting site, month of envenomation, time of sting, clinical manifestations, vital signs, presence of blood or hemoglobin in urine analysis, duration of admission, color of scorpion, received treatments, and administration of scorpion antivenin were recorded.

Results: The scorpions in Shiraz and its suburban area were classified into two groups: yellow scorpions (Mesobuthus eupeus, Mesobuthus caucasicus, and Compsobuthus matthiesseni) and Hottentotta scorpions (Hottentotta jayakari and Hottentotta zagrosensis). A total of 126 cases of scorpion stings were assessed. About 59% (n=74) were males. The patients aged 8-63 years (mean age, 33.8±11.5 years). About 38.4% (n=48) of the stings occurred during summer. More than 40% of patients (n=51) referred to the emergency department (ED) at night. Localized pain was the most frequent presenting complaint (76.2%). The most frequent general symptom was nausea (6.3%). The most prevalent envenomation site was the lower extremities followed by upper extremities (43.5% and 41.9%, respectively). Based on the clinical severity grading for Iranian scorpion envenomation, 65, 43, and 18 patients (51.6%, 34.1%, and 14.3%) were classified in the grades I, II, and III, respectively. Eighty-one (73%) patients stayed in the ED from 1 to 6 hours, and 30 (27%) patients stayed for >6 hours for observation. Severe localized pain was more prevalent in stings with Hottentotta scorpions than yellow scorpions (P=0.01). The season of envenomation with Hottentotta scorpions was summer in all cases, but envenomation with yellow scorpions was seen throughout the year. All patients received symptomatic treatment, and five were given scorpion antivenin. No death was reported.

Conclusion: Hottentotta jayakari is recommended to be listed among the medically important scorpions in Iran. Moreover, scorpion-stung patients in geographical regions where Hemiscorpius lepturus and Androctonus crassicauda are not prevalent may be treated in outpatient departments. The presented grading system can be used for treating patients with scorpion envenomation.

Sanaei-Zadeh H, Marashi SM, Dehghani R. Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of scorpionism in Shiraz (2012-2016); development of a clinical severity grading for Iranian scorpion envenomation. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2017;31:27. [Open Access]

19 February, 2018

Two new speciec of Tityus from Haiti and The Dominican Republic

Rolando Teruel and Gabriel de los Santos have recently published a new article presenting two new species of Tityus C. L. Koch, 1836 (Buthidae) from Hispaniola, Greater Antilles.

Tityus haetianus Teruel & Santos, 2018 (Haiti)

Tityus schrammi Teruel & Santos, 2018 (The Dominican Republic)

Two new species of Buthidae scorpions of the genus Tityus C. L. Koch, 1836 are herein described from the Greater Antillean island of Hispaniola. One of them belongs to the "crassimanus" species-group and is known from an adult pair collected at Massif de la Hotte, in southwestern Haiti. The other belongs to the "quisqueyanus" species-group and is known from a single adult female from a high peak in the Central Range (= Cordillera Central), in northwestern Dominican Republic. Moreover, two fossil taxa from this island are retained as junior synonyms of Tityus geratus Santiago-Blay, 1988†.

Teruel R, de los Santos G. Two New Tityus C. L. Koch, 1836 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) From Hispaniola, Greater Antilles. Euscorpius. 2018;257:1-16. [Open Access]

Family Buthidae

14 February, 2018

A new species of Hottentotta from Somalia

Frantisek Kovarik has recently published a new species of Hottentotta Birula, 1908 (Buthidae) from Somalia.

Hottentotta somalicus Kovarik, 2018

Hottentotta somalicus sp. n. from Somalia is described and fully complemented with color photos. Morphologically it is similar to H. polystictus (Pocock, 1896). These two species have very narrow metasomal segments (1.63–1.73 in both sexes versus 1.31–1.61 in both sexes of other Hottentotta species from the Horn of Africa). H. polystictus and H. somalicus sp. n. occur in separate areas (Somaliland versus Somalia) and can be differentiated by color.

Kovarik F. Scorpions of the Horn of Africa (Arachnida, Scorpiones). Part XIV. Hottentotta somalicus sp. n. (Buthidae) from Somalia. Euscorpius. 2018(256):1-8. [Open Access]

Family Buthidae

08 February, 2018

The Scorpion Files Newsblog 10 Year Anniversary

Dear All!

Today it is 10 year since I started The Scorpion Files Newsblog.

The Scorpion Files started a couple of year before this, but I soon realized that I needed a way of telling you when new stuff was added to the species lists and when new interesting research on scorpions were published. In the old day we had a couple of mailing lists for scorpion researchers and enthusiasts, but when web 2.0 with its social media platforms emerged, it was clear that a news blog could be a good thing.

And I think that the Scorpion Files has been quite a success. Since the beginning the blog has received 500 467 page views, a number I feel is good for such a small topic as scorpions. Hopefully, this indicates that the news blog and The Scorpion Files are useful information resources both for scorpion scientists and enthusiasts. I'm happy to see that in the last years The Scorpion Files have been cited in an increasing number of scientific papers as a source for the taxonomic status for a species, genus or a family.

I couldn't have done this all by myself. I big thanks to all the researchers and enthusiasts who send me articles or inform me about new research! The Scorpion Files would be possible without your help!

Best wishes

Jan Ove Rein
Editor of The Scorpion Files & The Scorpion Files Newsblog

A revision of the Mesobuthus caucasicus complex with 10 new or restored species from Central Asia

Victor Fet and several co-workers have recently published a major review of the widespread Central Asian species complex Mesobuthus caucasicus (Nordmann, 1840) (Buthidae). Here are the main taxonomical conclusions:

Mesobuthus caucasicus (Nordmann, 1840), s.str. is now restricted to the Caucasus Moutnains. Its is distributed in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia (northern Caucasus), Turkey, Ukraine (unclear if this population is native or introduced).

New species:

Mesobuthus brutus Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Iran),
Mesobuthus elenae Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
Mesobuthus gorelovi Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Mesobuthus kreuzbergi Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
Mesobuthus mischi Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Afghanistan)
Mesobuthus nenilini Fet, Kovarik, Gantenbein, Kaiser, Stewart & Graham, 2018 (Uzbekistan).

Species status after restoration from synonymy:

Mesobuthus fuscus (Birula, 1897) (Tajikistan)
Mesobuthus intermedius (Birula, 1897) (Tajikistan)
Mesobuthus kaznakovi (Birula, 1904) (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
Mesobuthus parthorum (Pocock, 1889) (Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan).


Afghanobuthus Lourenço, 2005 is synonymized with Mesobuthus Vachon, 1950
Afghanobuthus naumanni Lourenço, 2005 is synonymized with Mesobuthus parthorum (Pocock, 1889)

The article has an identification key to the Mesobuthus complexes and species (excluding taxa from China, Mongolia and Korea).

A widespread Mesobuthus caucasicus complex, which includes some of the most common scorpions found from the Caucasus to China, is revised for the first time based on new extensive collections from Central Asia, using both morphological and DNA marker data. Mesobuthus caucasicus (Nordmann, 1840), s.str. is restricted to the Caucasus Mts. Four taxa are elevated to species rank: M. fuscus (Birula, 1897) (Tajikistan), M. intermedius (Birula, 1897) (Tajikistan), M. kaznakovi (Birula, 1904) (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), and M. parthorum (Pocock, 1889) (Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan). Six new species are described: M. brutus sp. n. (Iran), M. elenae sp. n. (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), M.gorelovi sp. n. (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), M. kreuzbergi sp. n. (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), M. mischi sp. n. (Afghanistan), and M. nenilini sp. n. (Uzbekistan). The most common species in Central Asia is a psammophilic Mesobuthus gorelovi sp. n., widespread through lowland sand deserts across Turkmenistan (Karakum),Uzbekistan (Kizylkum), and Kazakhstan (north to Baigakum and Moyinkum). A key to all studied species isprovided. A DNA phylogeny based on COI and 16S rRNA markers is presented including nine Central Asian species (M. elenae sp. n., M. fuscus, M. gorelovi sp. n., M. intermedius, M. kaznakovi, M. kreuzbergi sp. n., M.mischi sp. n., M. nenilini sp. n., and M. parthorum) and M. caucasicus from Turkey. A deep phylogenetic diversity across Central Asia is revealed. Historical biogeographic scenarios for this scorpion group are discussed, including fragmentation in mountain valleys and expansion across sand deserts in Central Asia. The monotypic scorpion genus Afghanobuthus Lourenço, 2005 and its single species A. naumanni Lourenço, 2005, from Afghanistan, are demonstrated to be junior synonyms, respectively, of Mesobuthus Vachon, 1950, and M. parthorum (Pocock, 1889) from the same area.

Fet V, Kovarik F, Gantenbein B, Kaiser RC, Stewart AK, Graham MR. Revision of the Mesobuthus caucasicus Complex from Central Asia, with Descriptions of Six New Species (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Euscorpius. 2018(255):1-77. [Open Access]

Family Buthidae