Public Release:  Scorpion biodiversity

PLOS

Scorpions possess resistance to high temperatures and the ability to conserve water for long periods of time, and as a result thrive in hot and arid parts of the world. But is this global distribution also seen at a more local level? Reporting in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE April 9, Doctoral student Shmuel Raz and colleagues at the University of Haifa, Israel now show that this is indeed the case, even when European-like and African-like habitats were separated by no more than 100 metres.

Shmuel Raz and colleagues studied the communities of scorpions in a valley near Mount Carmel in Israel which has been dubbed "Evolution Canyon." Evolution Canyon" has steep slopes and runs approximately east-west, which means that the south-facing slope receive up to eight times as much solar radiation as the north-facing slope . Thus, despite identical regional geology and rainfall, one slope, dubbed the "African" slope of the canyon is arid savannah-like while the other boasts a lush, maquis-like forest environment separated by a narrow canyon floor that could easily be crossed by most animals and certainly would provide no barrier to a scorpion.

The researchers collected nearly 200 specimens of six different species of scorpions in "Evolution Canyon." While four of the species were found on both slopes of the canyon, two were only seen on the more arid, "African"-like slope. Similarly the "European" slope of the canyon yielded nearly a third fewer scorpion specimens than the "African" slope . Despite the ease of movement between the two canyon faces, the particular adaptations of the scorpions to arid conditions have led to their greater abundance on the south-facing, "African" slope.

Differences in the diversity of species between the north and south facing slopes of "Evolution Canyon" have been observed in other groups of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals and in combination with these, new studies on scorpions show that the environmental pressures brought about by factors such as the amount of sunshine, temperature and drought whether individually or in combination, can act very locally to produce global changes in biodiversity.

###

Media Contact:

Shmuel Raz
Institute of Evolution
Evolutionary and Environmental Biology
Aba Hushi
Haifa, 31905
Israel
00972486987859
razshmu@gmail.com

Link to manuscript: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005214

Citation: Raz S, Retzkin S, Pavlı´cˇek T, Hoffman A, Kimchi H, et al. (2009) Scorpion Biodiversity and Interslope Divergence at ''Evolution Canyon'', Lower Nahal Oren
Microsite, Mt. Carmel, Israel. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5214. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005214

Disclaimer

This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS ONE. The release has been provided by the article authors and/or their institutions. Any opinions expressed in this are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.