Highly endemic species of scorpions discovered in Western Ghats

A group of scientists from Pune, associated with Institute of Natural History Education and Research (INHER) has discovered two new species of scorpions.

Credit : Indie Journal

A group of scientists from Pune, associated with the Institute of Natural History Education and Research (INHER) has discovered two new species of scorpions in the Western Ghats. These highly endemic species - Chiromachetes parakrami and Chiromachetes ramdasswamii - will pave a way for better conservation planning for the region. The new species have been found in Amba Ghat in Sangli district and Varandha Ghat in the Pune district.

The species have been named with reference to the historical significance of the areas they have been discovered in. “Chiromachetes parakrami was discovered in Amba Ghat, which is very close to Pavan Khind, where the Battle of Pavankhind took place where Maratha warrior Baji Prabhu Deshpande showed one of history’s best rearguard last stands. To honour him, the scorpion species found there has been named as ‘parakrami’ which means gallant,” says ecologist and one of the co-authors Nikhil Dandekar. Similarly, the other species has been named after Maharashtrian saint Ramdas Swamy, as it was found in a ghat close to Shivthar Ghal, a cave where the saint is known to have lived for around two decades.


Endemism in Scorpions

“Rock-dwelling scorpions as well as tree-dwelling scorpions tend to be highly endemic as they hardly move and disperse. Those that live in the soil get dispersed as the soil is transferred from one place to another by human intervention, however, that’s not the case for the other two kinds,” says scientist Shauri Sulakhe, the lead author of the paper. This is called point endemism.

Sulakhe added, “These populations are so endemic, it makes these species very vulnerable. If the habitat is disturbed, we could lose the whole species.”

For instance, Dandekar explained, “If there is road widening activity in one of these ghats, without consideration to the rocks that house the scorpions. The whole species could get extinct in situations like these. And that is why we need more and stronger data about these species. In the Western Ghats, there are so many endemic species. We need to study them to save their habitats, and save biodiversity.”


Importance of Scorpions

“Scorpions are extremely important for biodiversity as well as the human race. They have bioactive venom, which can be utilised in medicines. Ongoing research has also shown that scorpion could be used in cancer research,” Sulakhe said.

Recent research by the research team at City of Hope National Medical Centre in the USA has shown that using a component of scorpion venom called chlorotoxin, cancerous cells could be targeted, without affecting the non-tumour cells. 

Scorpions are also an important part of biodiversity, as they also keep other invertebrates in control, Dandekar said.