California teens ID 2 new scorpion species — and they’re just getting started

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as it happens6:49California teens discover two new species of scorpions — and they’re just getting started

When Prakrit Jain and Harper Forbes first saw a photo of an unknown scorpion in the California wilderness, they knew they were looking for something special.

The teen duo knows a lot about scorpions. Both budding scientists are passionate about the environment, and are on a mission to document every species of California spider.

They were looking at photos on the citizen science website iNaturalist when they saw A picture that caught their attention A transparent, brown scorpion unlike any of the species it was familiar with.

“We knew right away that they were something new,” Jane said. as it happens Hosted by Neil Koksal.

After some careful fieldwork, the pair confirmed that they are indeed two previously undescribed species. They named it Parroctonos soda, because it lives in the salty clay soil near Soda Lake in San Luis Obispo County. It is one of two new species of scorpion described in new research It was published this month in ZooKeys magazine.

Pursuing childhood passion

Jane, 18, and Forbes, 19, published their findings in collaboration with Lauren Esposito, a California Academy of Sciences spider scientist who has been a mentor to both.

Esposito says they first met Gene at a local science event when he was about 11 years old. Already, he was full of knowledge about the California landscape.

“He was really excited about literally everything,” Esposito said.

Close-up of a yellowish translucent scorpion standing in the dirt, with dozens of small white scorpions stacked on its back.
Female Soda Parroctonus carries dozens of children on her back. (Prakrit Jain)

Jain says his fascination with nature began when he was a kid walking with his family. He said his parents did a great job encouraging his curiosity and helping him learn how to safely interact with wildlife without fear.

“I remember the first scorpion I saw was when I was eight or ten, and I found it really cool,” Jane said.

“I think I know more than most people about California scorpions, but far from all there is to know. Almost every week, I learn something new about California scorpions that I didn’t know before.”

Newly identified, it is already in danger

There is much to learn. Esposito says California is one of the most diverse regions in the world for scorpions.

They said, “There are, like, more species of scorpions in California than there are in the rest of the United States combined. But there are no resources … to identify them.”

So Esposito, Jane, and Harper set out to create those resources themselves. Esposito says the youngsters traveled to the state with their families, to photograph and detail the scorpions they encountered.

when they saw soda Online last year, they traveled to Soda Lake to search for more specimens to confirm their suspicions that it was a new species.

Hunting for scorpions means roaming the California desert on moonless nights using ultraviolet light under which most scorpions appear bright blue and green.

“It was a really beautiful and calming experience,” Jane said. “The desert is vast, empty and wonderful, especially at night. It’s a truly special experience.”

A few months later, they traveled to the Mojave Desert in Kern County, where they found another previously unrecorded species. They called her this Parurocton closed.

is over Latin meaning “confined or limited”. Jain says the scorpion is only found in a small habitat around Lake Cohn, “And that’s a thing It makes them particularly vulnerable to extinction if there is any kind of external threat to their habitat, whether it’s urban development, energy projects, mining or anything like that. “

They are not quite as scary as people portray them to be.– Prakrit Jane, a student at the University of California, Berkeley

In fact, both species seem to be restricted to their habitat in Soda Lake and Cohen Lake. Both are alkaline flats, or salt lakes, which are remnants of glacial lakes about 10,000 years ago.

“The glaciers have either completely melted or receded again, and what remains is a lake that has dried up over time because it can no longer reach a source of fresh water, and so it has become … very salty. And the plants and animals that were living around them because they either adapted to that excessive salinity. Or they are extinct.

“And that is exactly what happened with these scorpions. I suspect they were probably part of a thriving ecosystem that lived around… these two isolated lakes. Over time, as those lakes dried up, they adapted to that changing environment and became able to handle that kind of system.” They are very salty and they are just kind of clinging to life on plants that did the same thing as well.”

Three people with short hair walk side by side on a tree-lined path towards the camera.  They are smiling, talking and pointing with their hands.
Jane, Forbes, and Esposito are excited about scorpions and how they relate to California’s ecosystems. (Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences)

soda It lives inside the Carrizo National Monument, which means it is a protected species. P concluded. Not out of luck.

Jane and Harper are now working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to study P concluded. Furthermore, determining whether a species should be classified as threatened so that it can be protected under federal law.

“Scorpion conservation is really important not only to these endangered scorpions, but also to the endangered ecosystems in which they live,” Jain said.

Since their discovery, life has dispersed the young scorpion hunters. Jane is now a first-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, while Forbes, which CBC could not reach for comment, is at the University of Arizona.

But Esposito says the scorpion identification project is ongoing, and there will likely be many new species, waiting to be found.

“They’re not quite as scary as people portray them to be,” Jane said. “And they are much more valuable to desert ecosystems than I think a lot of people realize.”


Interview with Prakrit Jain produced by Katie Gillief.

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