Tiny scorpion packs a punch

Glossy black: Schaller’s wood scorpion.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Their stings are what they’re most notorious for but India’s scorpions are in the limelight now thanks to the addition of a new species — the Schaller’s wood scorpion from Tripura’s Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary.

A study published in Zootaxa, an international journal devoted to new species descriptions, details the discovery of the eleventh wood scorpion species from India by scientist Zeeshan Mirza (National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore). Also called dwarf scorpions, wood scorpions are unlike the large scorpions we commonly see. Wood scorpions are only about three cm long and live in small burrows on the ground, making them very difficult to spot.

“They also have fairly large and powerful pincers with which they crush their prey, and it was the sight of the pincers protruding from small mud burrows that alerted me,” says Mr. Mirza, who went looking for scorpions at night with a torch in Tripura.

A detailed examination of the arachnids showed they were distinctly different from other recorded wood scorpions — the mid-portion of their pincers was differently-shaped as was the placement of their eyes, and they were far darker (a glossy black).

Mr. Mirza named the new species Liocheles schalleri in honour of celebrated wildlife biologist George Schaller who has studied wildlife across the world, including the snow leopards of the Himalayas and central India’s tigers. Schaller’s wood scorpions are found in low elevations in parts of Tripura, including Trishna and Bison National Park, and is likely to be found in Bangladesh too, which is three km away.

“There are records of wood scorpions from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana but we do not know what species they are,” says Mr. Mirza. “So there could be many more species yet to discover. I plan to now look at the genetic differences between Liocheles scorpions in more detail.”

India is home to more than 125 species of scorpions. Nine of India’s 11 wood scorpions are endemic to the country.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 4:48:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/tiny-scorpion-packs-a-punch/article22084724.ece

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