New Scorpion from Land of Ancient Myth

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Greek mythology tells of a fire-breathing Chimera with the heads of a lion, a serpent and a goat that once stalked Lycia, a region in what is now the southern coast of Turkey. A recently discovered species of scorpion from Lycia falls short of the Chimera in the terror department, yet serves as an amazing example of how undiscovered species hide in plain sight.

The hero Bellerophon needed a lead-tipped spear and Pegasus, the flying horse, to take down the Chimera. However, a boot would probably be enough to finish off the new species of scorpion. Entomologists discovered the 2.5 inch-long scorpion hiding out in pine forests or clambering over chalky rocks in Antalya and Muğla Provinces, the modern names for ancient Lycia.

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A living male Euscorpius lycius in its natural environment. (Ersen Aydın Yağmur)

The reddish-brown scorpion, named Euscorpius lycius, doesn’t even pack a dangerous sting. The effects of the sting rival those of a mosquito. The scorpion was described in the journal ZooKeys.

Although the scorpion has probably been squashed under everything from Greek sandals to Ottoman slippers, entomologists did not realize that it was a separate species from four other similar small, red-brown scorpions that live from North Africa to Europe until recently. The Lycian scorpion may never inspire a mythical quest, nevertheless I find it amazing that new species continue to turn up in places where humans have lived for centuries.

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For example, earlier this year, ornithologists discovered a new species of orange-headed bird in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, home to 1.5 million people. Last year on the campus of the University of Missouri, entomologists described a new species of aphid which seems to live only on the grounds of the school.

Top Image: A female Euscorpius lycius. (Ersen Aydın Yağmur)

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