Despite notoriety, worldwide distribution, medical, ecological and conservation importance, scorpions are poorly studied taxonomically. New species and distribution records continue to be discovered, yet scorpions are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and harvesting for the souvenir and exotic pet trades. Scorpion research is hampered by infrequent application of modern concepts and techniques. This project will use genetic and anatomical data to revise a diverse and medically important genus of New World scorpions, the bark scorpions, Centruroides. Fieldwork will be conducted to discover new species, document distributions, and gather fresh material. The taxonomy will be revised based on objective analysis, and a monograph on the entire genus will be produced.
Identifying and defining Centruroides species is problematic. The characters traditionally used often overlap between closely related species, are vaguely defined, and often vary within a population. It may be difficult even for specialists to identify species. Without a sound taxonomy, it is thus impossible to determine which species are medically important and dangerous to prepare and administer anti-venom. This project will produce revised species descriptions and interactive identification keys, illustrated with digital images and links to maps of species distributions, for all Centruroides. An expert in scorpion systematics will be trained, and results will be disseminated via the Internet for use by medical professionals and the public.