New scorpion found in what was ancient Lycia fails to spit fire

The announcement put the focus on the often puzzling taxonomic classification of the species within the new scorpion's genus.

Ersen Aydın Yağmur
The new species, the Euscorpius lycius, is small and brown-colored, with darker claws.

A team of Turkish and Italian scientists have announced the existence of a new species of scorpion in southwestern Turkey. The research, published in the journal ZooKeys, fine-tunes the taxonomic classification of the numerous species within the new scorpion's genus, each of which do stand-up jobs of masquerading as each other.  

The scorpion, called Euscorpius lycius, is named for Lycia (LISH-ee-a), the ancient political region that once spanned southwestern Turkey’s Muğla and Antalya provinces. In a tale told in The Iliad, the area was also the mythical home of the Chimaera, a lion-goat-snake-being that happened to spit fire.

The Euscorpius lycius is less formidable – much less. The scorpion is the latest addition to the Euscorpius genus of scorpions, or “small wood scorpions,” first described in 1876. It joins a group of more than a dozen species found throughout Europe and Africa that are each no more that about two inches long and that range in color from dull light brown to faded red brown. Their sting is about as a harmful to humans as is a mosquito bite. None of them spit fire.

Five of these scorpion species live in Turkey, and the latest scorpion had hid within these species, the paper’s authors said. To tug the new species out of the group, the team of scientists had pulled 26 specimens out from under stones and off of garden walls around southwestern Turkey. The team then took a careful review of the tiny scorpions’ features for minute morphological clues that this was, in fact, a new species.

It’s possible that there are more species still hiding within the so far identified five species, but differentiating between species within this genus of little, dull-colored scorpions is a fraught effort, the authors said.

“Taxonomy of Euscorpius genus is complicated and still unresolved throughout its range,” the authors write, in the paper, noting that species within the genus exhibit “the same, or very similar, standard characters.”

“Additional morphological features that simplify the division between the species of the genus Euscorpius should be found,” the authors write, “but at the moment the only way to identify the various species is to combine a set of characters, primary and secondary, the area of origin and a certain number of specimens available.”

Splicing one species into two is common in zoology, and it is especially common when the animal, or animals, in question are as small as are members of the Euscorpius genus. There have been incidents, though, when even big – and cute – mammals have hidden themselves within broad taxonomic classifications.

In August, a team of scientists from three US museums announced that olingos had been hiding a separate species of teddy-bear-like mammals in their midst: the olinguitos. The announcement ended a decade long effort to piece through the evidence –a bright red pelt here, a grey pelt there – to show that one species was in fact two species.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.