02 August 2007

A new species of underground scorpion from Israel

The Ayalon (or Ayyalon) Cave in Israel that was discovered about a year ago yielded a new species of scorpion. The description of the new scorpion by Gershom Levy* has been published in the last issue of the Zoology in the Middle East.

The new scorpion, Akrav israchanani, is blind and about 50 mm in body length. The genus Akrav and the family Akravidae it belongs to are also new.


In addition to the new scorpion species, the cave is also inhabited by crustaceans, collembolans and pseudoscorpions. No live scorpions have been found; only dry, brittle, hollow carcasses stuck to the rocks have been collected using UV lights that make their cuticles fluoresce in the dark. The other troglobites found in the cave are either aquatic or too small for the scorpions to prey on. The author Levy wonders if the scorpions went extinct after their unknown preys became extinct.

According to the article, the Ayyalon Cave had been completely isolated from the outside before it was first entered. Levy speculates that the aquatic inhabitants of the cave could represent a relict fauna left over from the time of the Tethys Sea or a unique fauna that evolved in isolation.

*Levy, G. 2007. The first troglobite scorpion from Israel and a new chactoid family (Arachnida: Scorpiones). Zoology in the Middle East 40:91-96.


umit said...

In my region if you seek living fossils go to ancient lakes or old caves. Real great discovery!

Kevin Z said...

It seems in europe and the middle east, cave biology is moving much faster and making more discoveries than in the US. I wonder why? We certainly have plenty caves, even here in central PA, I have gone caving and see several animals in them.

Could it be that the more limited resources, and smaller borders of Eastern Europe and the Middle East region encourage biologists to explore more locally?

Regardless, I have been fascinated by the biology coming out of cave exploration in the last 8 years (the time since I've been paying attention).