13 March, 2018

Environmental factors predicting distribution of Androctonus in Morocco

Predicting the occurrence of potential dangerous scorpions in an area may be an important tool in preventing serious sting cases. Moulay Abdelmonaim El Hidan and co-workers have published a study where they have identified environmental factors related to scorpion species occurrence in Morocco (the medical important genus Ancrotonus was chosen), and based on this they have developed scorpion envenomation risk maps for the same areas.

Aim: The objective of this study was to establish environmental factors related to scorpion species occurrence and their current potential geographic distributions in Morocco, to produce a current envenomation risk map and also to assess the human population at risk of envenomation.
Materials and Methods: In this study, 71 georeferenced points for all scorpion species and nine environmental indicators were used to generate species distribution models in Maxent (maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions) version 3.3.3k. The models were evaluated by the area under the curve (AUC), using the omission error and the binomial probability. With the data generated by Maxent, distribution and envenomation risk maps were produced using the “ESRI® ArcGIS 10.2.2 for Desktop” software.
Results: The models had high predictive success (AUC >0.95±0.025). Altitude, slope and five bioclimatic attributes were found to play a significant role in determining Androctonus scorpion species distribution. Ecological niche models (ENMs) showed high concordance with the known distribution of the species. Produced risk map identified broad risk areas for Androctonus scorpion envenomation, extending along Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz, Souss-Massa-Draa, and some areas of Doukkala-Abda and Oriental regions.
Conclusion: Considering these findings ENMs could be useful to afford important information on distributions of medically important scorpion species as well as producing scorpion envenomation risk maps.

El Hidan MA, Touloun O, Bouazza A, Laaradia MA, Boumezzough A. Androctonus genus species in arid regions: Ecological niche models, geographical distributions, and envenomation risk. Veterinary World. 2018;11(3):286-92. [Open Access]

Thanks to Carlos Turiel for informing me about this article!

08 March, 2018

A review on the scorpionism by the genus Hemiscorpius in Iran

The majority of the literature on scorpionism and medical important scorpions is focused on species on the family Buthidae. But many of the species in the family Hemiscorpiidae can also cause death or serious morbidity. Interestingly, the symptoms of Hemiscorpius Peters, 1861 envenomations are different from the traditional envenomations by buthids. E. g. a sting by the latter will immediately cause pain, while the sting of a Hemiscorpius is usually painless and the patient risk not knowing that a sting has occurred until more serious symptoms occur.

Rouhullah Dehghani and co-workers have now published an interesting review on the scorpionism by Hemiscorpius scorpions in Iran summing up the knowledge on envenomations from these potential dangerous species.

Scorpions are distributed throughout Iran and the genus Hemiscorpius is particularly important in this region. Hemiscorpius lepturus is the most significant species within the genus in the country. Since scorpionism provoked by Hemiscorpius comprises a medical emergency, the present study is focused on this important issue. In order to perform the present work, a review of the medical and health-related literature was carried out in several databases. The current findings indicate that six species of Hemiscorpius are found in 15 states of Iran, mainly in the south and southwest. Deaths caused by stings were reported only for two species. The morphological characteristics and geographical distribution of H. lepturus in Iran, its venom and the toxic compounds, epidemiologic data and clinical manifestations of envenomation as well as treatment for affected people are herein reviewed and described. H. lepturus venom toxicity differs from other Iranian scorpions regarding duration and severity. Scorpionism is an important public health problem in Iran, especially in southwest and south regions and in urban areas. It is more prevalent in children and young people. H. lepturus venom is primarily a cytotoxic agent and has hemolytic, nephrotoxic and to some extent hepatotoxic activity. The use of polyvalent antivenom to prevent scorpion sting symptoms is recommended. A well-planned health education program might be useful in preventing scorpionism.

Dehghani R, Kamiabi F, Mohammadi M. Scorpionism by Hemiscorpius spp. in Iran: a review. J Venom Anim Toxins Incl Trop Dis. 2018;24:8. [Open Access]

Family Hemiscorpiidae

A new species of Leiurus from Algeria

Until 2002, the genus Leiurus Ehrenberg, 1828 (Buthidae) was monotypic with Leiurus quinquestriatus (Ehrenberg, 1828) as the only species. In a recent article, Lourenco and co-workers describe the twelfth species in the genus, this time from Algeria.

Leirurus hoggarensis Loreunco, Kourim & Sadine, 2018

A new species of buthid scorpion belonging to the genus Leiurus Ehrenberg 1828 is described on the basis of four males and six females collected in the region of AmesmessaTamanrasset in the south of Algeria. The new species, Leiurus hoggarensis sp. n., most certainly corresponds to the Leiurus population previously cited by Vachon from both the Hoggar and the Tassili N’Ajjer as Leiurus quinquestriatus. Several characteristics, however, attest that this population is unquestionable distinct from these found in Egypt, and both species can be distinguished by a distinct coloration pattern, different morphometric values and different number of teeth on the pectines. The type locality of the new species represents the most westerly record of the genus Leiurus in Africa, and the new species also inhabit a more mesic zone when compared to the central compartment of the Saharan desert. Leiurus hoggarensis sp. n., apparently does not present characteristics of a psamophilic species and may be considered as a lithophilic species. This is the 12th species to be described for this buthid genus.

Lourenco WR, Kourim ML, Sadine SE. Scorpions from the region of Tamanrasset, Algeria. Part II. A new African species of the genus Leiurus Ehrenberg, 1828 (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Arachnida - Rivista Aracnologica Italiana. 2018;4(16):3-14.

Thanks to Dr. Salah Eddine Sadine for informing me about their article!

Family Buthidae

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]