World Biodiversity Day 2020: New scorpion species discovered by Pune scientists

Prajakta Joshi
Friday, 22 May 2020

The team of scientists has discovered a new species of scorpion Isometrus Kovariki at a plantation area near Azim Premji University which lies on the outskirts of Bangalore city.

Pune: With the discovery of a new species of scorpion near Bangalore, Pune-based scientists have emphasised the importance of the integrated taxonomic approach in identifying species, that underlined the greater need for conservation.

The team of scientists has discovered a new species of scorpion Isometrus Kovariki at a plantation area near Azim Premji University which lies on the outskirts of Bangalore city. Interestingly, this particular species is presently known to be found only in that small confinement.

Scientists Shauri Sulakhe, Nikhil Dandekar, Shomen Mukherjee, Malay Pandey, Makarand Ketkar, Anand Padhye and Deshbhushan Bastawade are part of the team that has found the new species.

Sulakhe had earlier also led the team in the discovery of two species of scorpions in Western Ghats Isometrus Tamhini and Isometrus Amboli with the help of integrated taxonomy for the first time in Scorpiology.

“Under this, we have made the use of morphological, molecular as well as bio-statistical approaches for identification of species - morphological characters use the characteristics of form and structure to identify the species, molecular approach refers to DNA barcoding and genetic sequencing and bio-statistics refer to statistical analysis of the gathered morphological data,” Sulakhe explained.

“Use of an integrated taxonomic approach is very rare. Until now, it was mostly used only for the amphibia, specifically for frogs. In scorpiology, papers are still published using the morphological approach only. For the DNA characters to work, we need to design an initial sequence which is known as a primer. It is tough and expensive to do that for the smaller species. For the larger ones with established primers, it is easier,” biologist Dandekar told Sakal Times, adding that only the established scientists are using this method for now but will grow as others take it.

Sulakhe also stated that using an integrated approach helps discover endemic and specific biodiversity.

“Studying ecology depends on understanding the biodiversity of any place. Only when we understand the biodiversity, we can put a proper plan of conservation in place depending on the needs of the species present there,” he said.

For instance, identification of Isometrus kovariki. “A very small population of this scorpion is found in a very small area of plantation. This species must immediately go into IUCN’s critically endangered list,” Sulakhe said.

Dandekar also added that the area in which these scorpions are found is so vulnerable. “Identification of the species, knowing what we have can help conserve the area and many like these. Scorpions, unlike many others, do not usually move from one area to another. So the destruction of habitat could mean the extinction of the unidentified endangered species like Isometrus Kovariki,” the biologist expressed.

Sulakhe also stated that this way, identification of one new species through integrated taxonomy can conserve a whole area/region and possibly all the unidentified species in it.

“Many a time, we don’t understand the level of impact losing one single species could have on the ecosystem. Maybe the impact would not always be very huge, but it certainly means that our planning and policies are going in the wrong direction,” Sulakhe said.

He added that while the study of more charismatic and bigger animals like tigers, elephants, etc. attracts attention, it is necessary to remember that every small life matters.

We cannot attribute which connecting chains, which life cycles are affected when a species is endangered and extinct. However, it all leads to an impact that would not be able to understand,” Sulakhe added.

Isometrus Kovariki is named after world-renowned Scorpiologist František Kovařík. It is closely related to Isometrus Thurstoni and differs in morphological features and raw genetic divergence of more than 9 per cent.

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