New Scorpion Species Accidentally Discovered Near Tucson
February 19, 2013

New Scorpion Species Accidentally Discovered Near Tucson

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

For over the last half-century only four species of mountain scorpions were known to inhabit the state of Arizona, but in the past six years that number has doubled. There are now ten species known to exist, and while all belong to the same group, the most recent scorpion was only recently discovered sharing the habitat with another scorpion species.

The Vaejovis brysoni, which was found in the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona, belongs to the same group that also inhabits the mountain range, which makes this the first documented case where two vorhiesi group species could lay claim to having the same mountain as home.

Dr. Rob Byson Jr., of the University of Washington´s biology department, discovered the new species almost by accident, as he had been looking for a completely different animal.

His line of study includes the origin and distribution of genetic diversity in taxa, which includes reptiles, amphibians, birds and scorpions. He is the author of the paper, “As Old as the Hills: Montane Scorpions in Southwestern North America Reveal Ancient Associations between Biotic Diversification and Landscape History.”

While many others may have been hard-pressed to actually determine that the Vaejovis bysoni was a different scorpion, it was far more obvious to Dr. Bryson. It is also common for new discoveries to be made when looking for something else, and Bryson determined it was indeed a new species.

The findings of this new species were published in the open access, peer-reviewed journal Zookeys.

“This latest new scorpion is a prime example of the amazing diversity of life still to be discovered, right here in 21st century America,” said Richard F. Ayrey, a co-author of the original article.

What also makes this discovery all the more unique is the new species of scorpion was found not in isolated mountains, but those that overlook the city of Tucson, thus within sight of a large metropolitan area.

All ten currently known species belong to the same group and are found in the isolated mountain habitats of the Arizona desert known as the Sky Islands.

Finding new species near a metro area is impressive, but finding new species in general is a little more common. In fact, it is common enough that the Arizona State University International Institute for Species Exploration has been tracking the top ten new species each year for the past five years. While many of these include plants and insects, it is worth noting that last a snub-nosed monkey was found in Myanmar (Burma) in 2010.

Moreover, whilst it did take the keen eye of Dr. Bryson to correctly identify that the Vaejovis bysoni was not just another already known scorpion, many talented amateurs around the world are helping to identify, describe and even name new species of insects.

It isn´t just remote mountains or jungles. European amateurs are discovering about six out of every ten new species discovered, with most being insects. Sometimes it doesn´t even take venturing very far, as one retired Welshman reportedly found a new species of slug in his back garden.