25 February, 2020

The potential impact of climate change on the future distribution of scorpion species in two different ecosystems in Brazil

Climate changes and subsequent habitat changes or destruction is high on the agenda these days. But how will climate change impact on scorpions? Andre Lira and co-workers published a study in December trying to answer this question.

And not surprisingly their study showed that all 10 species in the study presented a drastic reduction in potential distribution du to expected climate changes, ranging from 44% to 72%, when compared with their current distribution. Interestingly, this applied both to generalist and specialist species. It was expected that latter was more vulnerable to changes than the former.

Current predictions about the responses of species to climate change strongly rely on projecting altered environmental conditions on their distributions. In this study, we investigated the effects of future climate change scenarios on the potential distribution of 10 species of scorpions in north-eastern Brazil in the context of their degree of specialisation to closed (Atlantic and Amazon Forests) and open (Caatinga and Cerrado) habitats. Scorpion species were classified as habitat specialists or generalists according to the IndVal index, and present and future species distribution models were prepared using minimum volume ellipsoids. According to IndVal, four species were classified as closed-forest specialists (Ananteris mauryi, Tityus brazilae, Tityus pusillus and Tityus neglectus), four as open-forest specialists (Jaguajir agamemnon, Jaguajir rochae, Physoctonus debilis and Bothriurus rochai), and two as generalists (Tityus stigmurus and Bothriurus asper). All species presented a drastic reduction in potential distribution, ranging from 44% to 72%, when compared with their current distribution. In addition, we found a reduction in scorpion species richness under future climate change scenarios. This finding has implications for scorpion conservation. Further, the results show that climate change may impact the composition of scorpion assemblages in north-eastern Brazil, revealing important implications for human–scorpion interactions.

Lira AFDA, Badillo-Montaño R, Lira-Noriega A, de Albuquerque CMR. Potential distribution patterns of scorpions in north-eastern Brazil under scenarios of future climate change. Austral Ecol. 2019. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Andre Lira for sending me their article!

17 February, 2020

Are trichobothria really necessary in scorpion prey capture?

It is a well known fact that the scorpion trichobothria on their pedipalps are very important in how the scorpions sense their environment. They use these small hairs to detect vibrations in the air and in the substrate, but direct behavioral studies on the use of trichobothria and natural prey capture are scarce.

Gabriel Pimenta Murayama and Rodrigo Hirata Willemart have recently published an interresting  study where they tested if the trichobothria are important in prey capture in Tityus serrulatus Lutz & Mello, 1922 (Buthidae). I must admit I assumed the answer was yes, but surprisingly their results suggested that the trichobothria of T. serrulatus was not essential to capture terrestrial prey.

It is important to remember that scorpions do have other types of sensory hairs (sensilla) on different parts of their body and these may play a role in detecting prey in the scorpions vicinity.

Many arachnids rely on substrate-borne vibrations and air displacement to detect prey. Air-flow stimuli may be detected by long setae called trichobothria, which occur on scorpion pedipalps, but seldom have their functions been addressed in these animals. We tested the hypothesis that trichobothria on scorpion pedipalps are important for capturing terrestrial prey in the scorpion Tityus serrulatus. We predicted that scorpions with trichobothria experimentally removed would be less successful in capturing terrestrial prey than the control groups. We also predicted that scorpions without trichobothria would have a higher number of capture attempts, that the latency to detect prey and to the first capture attempts would be higher, and the number of times that scorpions oriented their body towards the prey would be lower. We used an experimental subject and a cricket in an arena with a paper sheet as substrate. We did not find differences in the measured variables between the groups. Other sensory organs, such as basitarsal compound slit sensilla and tarsal hairs would enable scorpions to detect prey by substrate-borne vibrations, compensating for the lack of trichobothria. Our results suggest that the trichobothria of T. serrulatus may not be essential to capture terrestrial prey.

Murayama GP, Willemart RH. Are trichobothria used in terrestrial prey capture by the yellow scorpion Tityus serrulatus Lutz & Mello, 1922 (Buthidae)? Arachnology. 2019;18(3):287-90.

14 February, 2020

The role of sexual dimorphism in prey capture in two scorpion genera with different degree of male and female dimorphism

Sexual differences in morphology and other traits occur in many scorpion species, while the male and female are quite similar in others. In scorpions, sexual dimorphism is usually associated with mating and associated behavior.

Morphological differences in pedipalps and cauda have an impact in prey capture tactics, sting use and venom use in scorpions. Scorpions with large, powerful pedipalps will often not use their stinger and rely on the power of the pedipalps compared to species with more slender pedipalp.

Julio Cesar Gonzalez-Gomez and co-workers have recently published an article combining the above mentioned characteristics in scorpions by looking into the role of sexual dimorphism in prey capture in one group of scorpions with large sex differences and another group with minor differences. As espected they found significant differences between males and females in the group with large sexual dimorphism, and no differences in the group with minor differences.

Morphological differences between the sexes are a common feature in many groups of animals and can have important ecological implications for courtship, mating, access to prey and, in some cases, intersex niche partitioning. In this study, we evaluated the role of sexual dimorphism in the performance of the two structures that mediate the ability to access prey, the pinchers or chelae and the venomous stinger, in two species of scorpions with contrasting morphologies: Chactas sp., which has marked sexual dimorphism in the chelae, and Centruroides sp., which does not have such marked dimorphism in the chelae. We evaluated aspects such as chela pinch force, toxicity to prey (LD50) and the volume of venom in males and females of each species. We found significant differences between males and females of Chactas sp. in the chela pinch force, volume of venom and LD50. In contrast, for Centruroides sp., no differences between males and females were found in any of these traits. We discuss several potential selective regimes that could account for the pattern observed.

González-Gómez JC, Valenzuela-Rojas JC, García LF, Franco Pérez LM, Guevara G, Buitrago S, et al. Sexual dimorphism in the biomechanical and toxicological performance in prey incapacitation of two morphologically distinct scorpion species (Chactas sp. and Centruroides sp.). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 2020;129(1):190-8. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Luis Fer for sending me this article!

13 February, 2020

A description of the hemispermatophore and mating plug of Vaejovis lapidicola

The hemispermatophore and mating plug have become important structures in scorpion taxonomy. Brandon Myers and Richard Ayrey have now published a description of these structures in the vaejovid Vaejovis lapidicola Stahnke, 1940.

While doing research on an undescribed scorpion species, we needed to examine the hemispermatophore and mating plug of Vaejovis lapidicola Stahnke, 1940. Included are photographs and a description of these structures from a topotype specimen collected in the same “red sandstone quarry” (Flagstaff, Arizona, USA), from which Herbert Stahnke collected the original specimens in 1938.

Myers B, Ayrey RF. Vaejovis lapidicola Stahnke, 1940: hemispermatophore and mating plug from a topotype male (Scorpiones: Vaejovidae). Euscorpius. 2020(299):1-7. [Open Access]

Family Vaejovidae

07 February, 2020

Two new species of Compsobuthus from North Africa

Frantisek Kovarik and co-workers have recently publish a paper on species in the genus Compsobuthus Vachon, 1949 (Buthidae) from Arabia and North Africa. Two new species are described.

Compsobuthus turieli Kovarik, Lowe, Stockmann & Stahlavsky, 2020 (Western Sahara and Morocco)

Compsobuthus ullrichi Kovarik, Lowe, Stockmann & Stahlavsky, 2020 (Egypt)

The article has also a redescription of Compsobuthus arabicus Levy, Amitai & Shulov, 1973.

Two new species of Compsobuthus Vachon, 1949, are described: C. turieli sp. n. from Western Sahara and Morocco, and C. ullrichi sp. n. from Egypt. The species C. arabicus Levy et al., 1973 is redescribed based on analysis of the holotype plus extensive material from Oman and the United Arab Emirates. These species are compared to others from their respective regions: C. kabateki Kovařík, 2003, C. levyi Kovařík, 2012, and C. polisi Lowe, 2001, for which new illustrations and biometrics are provided based on types and topotypic material. The hemispermatophores of C. arabicus, C. turieli sp. n. and C. ullrichi sp. n. are illustrated and described. We also record the karyotypes of C. acutecarinatus, C. arabicus, C. maindroni and C. ullrichi sp. n. All examined specimens possess 2n=22 and chromosomes gradually decreasing in length.

Kovarik F, Lowe G, Stockmann M, Stahlavsky F. Notes on Compsobuthus: redescription of C. arabicus Levy et al., 1973 from Arabia, and description of two new species from North Africa (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Euscorpius. 2020(298):1-40.

Congratulations on your "own" species, Carlos and Alex! :)

Family Buthidae

A new species of Ananteris from Panama

Roberto Miranda and Luis de Armas have recently published a new species of Ananteris Thorell, 1891 (Buthidae) from Panama.

Ananteris canalera Miranda & Armas, 2020

A new buthid species belonging to the genus Ananteris Thorell, 1891 is herein described from Panama Oeste Province, Panama. This is the second Ananteris species known from this Central American country and clearly differs from Ananteris platnicki Lourenço, 1993, distributed in Costa Rica and Panama, by its smaller size and male having a different hemispermatophore and telson similar to that of the female.

Miranda RJ, de Armas LF. A new species of Ananteris (Scorpiones: Buthidae) from Panama. Euscorpius. 2020(297):1-7. [Open Access]

Family Buthidae