New Scorpion Species Discovered in California

Posted on March 23, 2012

Northern Scorpion UV Light

An elusive new scorpion species has been discovered in California's Death Valley National Park by researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The tiny scorpion, only 16 mm in length, lives underground in the Inyo Mountains. The researchers named the species Wernerius inyoensis, after the Inyo Mountains where it was found.

The new scorpion appears to be closely related to two other species found over 400 kilometers away at Joshua Tree National Park and along the lower Colorado River. This group of scorpions is most easily identified by the presence of a conspicuous spine at the base of its stinger. The function of this spine is unknown. This is a drawing of the tail segment of Wernerius inyoensis, displaying the unique spine above the stinger.

Wernerius Inyoensis Tail Barb

Matthew Graham, a PhD Candidate with the School of Life Sciences at UNLV, discovered the scorpion along with his father who was volunteering that night. Graham says, "We almost overlooked this one during the survey. Only a single male individual was found, but the physical uniqueness was enough to identify it as a new species."

The new species was found at the base of a talus slope. This - and the fact that the species had not been discovered previously - hints at the possibility that these scorpions are subterrestrial and spend their lives deep in rock crevices or in the interstitial spaces among piles of loose rock.

The top image is of a Northern Scorpion glowing under ultraviolet light. The Northern Scorpion is a broadly distributed species that was also found in the Inyo Mountains.

A research paper on the new species can be found in ZooKeys.

Image and Drawing: Michael Webber

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