Harper Forbes and Prakrit Jain, high school students from California’s Bay Area, have discovered two new species of the scorpion genus Paruroctonus.
In 2019, Forbes and Jain came across an unknown scorpion species on the community science platform iNaturalist.
The scorpion was observed near Koehn Lake — an ephemeral lake in the Mojave Desert.
“We weren’t entirely sure what we were looking at,” Jain said.
“Over the next couple years, we studied scorpions in the genus Paruroctonus and learned they frequently evolve to live in alkali playas like Koehn Lake.”
“When we returned to that initial observation, we realized we were looking at an undescribed Paruroctonus species.”
Serendipitousy, another unknown scorpion observed in California’s San Luis Obispo County was uploaded to iNaturalist in 2021.
Named Paruroctonus soda and Paruroctonus conclusus, the two new species are both alkali sink specialists, meaning they have adapted to the alkaline basins — dry, salty playas with high pH soils — in which they evolved.
Each species has a very limited range and can only be found in the playas where they were discovered: Koehn Lake and Soda Lake.
This summer, Forbes and Jain visited the lakes to collect specimens of Paruroctonus soda and Paruroctonus conclusus.
After scouting the alkali flats during the daytime for habitats most suited for playa scorpions, they set out with their vials and forceps at dusk, as these desert dwellers are primarily active at night.
Luckily, most scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light, so the researchers used blacklights to scour the open playas while keeping an eye out for their glowing subjects.
They also searched the scorpions’ typical hiding places, peering into cracks in the hard clay soil and combing through common alkali sink plants like iodine bush (Allenrolfea occidentalis) and bush seepweed (Suaeda nigra).
At the end of each trip, they successfully collected a sample size of both males and females sufficient for the study.
“Harper and Prakrit went through all the steps to formally describe a species, sampling the populations and comparing them with existing specimens in our collection,” said Dr. Lauren Esposito, curator of arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences.
“There’s a lot of work involved, but they are incredibly passionate about this research.”
“It’s inspiring to see that their hobby is one that advances biodiversity science.”
The team’s paper will be published in the journal ZooKeys.
L. Esposito et al. 2022. Two new alkali-sink specialist species of Paruroctonus Werner 1934 (Scorpiones, Vaejovidae) from central California. ZooKeys, in press; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1117.76872
Source link: https://www.sci.news/biology/two-new-paruroctonus-species-11096.html