Contributions within Discipline:
Twenty papers citing the grant are published, in
press or in review (see Publications). New species are described in these papers and new data on
the distributions of others provided, adding significant inventory data for vaejovids and other scorpions. A commentary paper on scorpion phylogeny,
discussing the position of the family Vaejovidae, and morphological character
coding and analysis of scorpion phylogeny more generally, has been published
Prendini and Wheeler 2005). A
monographic synthesis of the morphology of tarsal spinules and setae in vaejovid
scorpions, with a discussion of their utility as diagnostic and phylogenetic
characters, has been published (See
McWest 2009). A paper on the phylogeny and higher
classification of North American Hadrurus scorpions was published (See
Francke and Prendini 2008).
A manuscript presenting the results of an analysis of vaejovid relationships
(the ‘scaffold’ phylogeny) is in preparation. The analysis is based on ca. 1,025
DNA sequences (1640 fragments) representing all genera and species groups,
including type species, of Vaejovidae and 16 outgroup taxa, analysed
simultaneously with morphological characters scored for the same taxa, summing
to a total of 4,265 characters (morphology plus molecules). The resulting
publication, using a total evidence approach, will make major changes in current
supraspecific vaejovid taxonomy: genera will be reorganized, new genera
described, and several genera synonymized; it will also be possible to establish
new monophyletic suprageneric groupings. This is the single largest analysis of
phylogenetic relationships among a group of scorpions ever attempted.
The all-species analysis, however, will be five times larger and will represent
92% of the species in the family Vaejovidae. This dataset currently comprises
963 ingroup terminals representing 271 vaejovid morphospecies and 16 outgroup
terminals (one species each), summing to 979 terminals sequenced for 7832 DNA
fragments, comprising 4746 partial or complete sequences (97% of the total
4895), from two nuclear and three mitochondrial markers.
In addition, at least 113 new species of Vaejovidae and many new records and
range-extensions of previously poorly known species have been obtained as a
result of fieldwork supported by REVSYS funds and will be incorporated into
Eleven presentations, three at national meetings and eight at international
meetings, one lecture at the AMNH, and three posters at international meetings,
were all based on work supported in whole or in part by the grant.
More than 16,200 scorpion specimens were collected in the course of the project.
A large amount of additional arachnid and myriapod material was collected during
the REVSYS project. These new specimens will facilitate research on other groups
of scorpions, spiders, opilionids, pseudoscorpions, solpugids, uropygids,
schizomids, and palpigrades, and myriapods. Several papers describing a new
diplocentrid scorpion, a new sun spider, and redescribing a whipscorpion, all
collected during fieldwork supported by the grant, are already published or in
Contributions to Other Disciplines:
The creation of an online searchable database of vaejovid specimens on the
REVSYS Vaejovidae project website (www.vaejovidae.info; mirror site at
www.vaejovidae.com) has provided data on scorpion
distributions to biogeographers and conservation biologists for use in landscape
studies on arthropod diversity, distribution and conservation in North America.
The inventory work, as well as the distribution of taxonomic keys enabling
identification, will be helpful to park personnel and resource management
specialists wishing to assess their scorpion fauna while the provision of online
keys and taxonomic treatments of each vaejovid species, still in progress, will
facilitate the work of ecologists interested in including vaejovids in studies
on the North American biota.
The website has resulted in requests to use material for teaching and
educational purposes, and has served as a useful reference for students and
nascent biologists. It has also resulted in donations of material for the
The commentary paper by Prendini & Wheeler (2005) addresses concerns in general
systematics research on issues such as character coding and internet publishing
without peer review.
Contributions to Education and Human Resources:
This REVSYS project involved four Ph.D. students (one working full-time on the
project), eight M.S. students, twenty undergraduate students, five high school
students, eighteen volunteers and eleven technicians. These individuals received
training in relevant field techniques (e.g., specimen collection, specimen,
preservation, ethics and legal issues), taxonomic practices (e.g.,
identification, curatorial techniques, production of illustrations, collection
of morphometric and meristic data from specimens), and/or laboratory skills
(e.g., DNA sequencing, microscopy, digital imaging). Each of the four senior
personnel participated in multiple field expeditions with students and
volunteers to provide training and intellectual interactions in the field
setting. Many of the students began the project as undergraduates and, as a
result of their participation, decided to pursue graduate studies in arachnology.
Several have contributed to publications and are still involved in vaejovid
The four senior personnel collaborated on major intellectual aspects continually
for the duration of the project via e-mail and phone conversations. In addition,
they spent several weeks in the field together during each year of the project,
and met together in New York City (AMNH) for several days of intensive
discussions (each lasting approximately one week) on three separate occasions.
Afterwards, the Co-PI and collaborators each made individual visits to work at
the AMNH for various reasons in support of the project. They continue to
collaborate on diverse aspects of the project, as well as on other projects that
arose out of the REVSYS vaejovid work. Such collaboration is unprecedented in
the history of scorpion systematics, which has been characterized by ‘lone
wolves’ doing research largely in isolation. The REVSYS Vaejovidae experience
proves that a collaborative model, though not without its problems, is possible
and may well be superior.
There were a number of educational outreach events during the project. Five
presentations at popular science meetings were based on work supported in whole
or in part by the grant. Co-PI Sissom delivered presentations to Arachnocon (San
Antonio, 2007) and the American Tarantula Society (Rio Rico, AZ, 2008) on the
North American scorpion fauna. Jeremy Huff (AMNH) also delivered a presentation
to Arachnocon (2007) on the progress of the REVSYS project. These presentations
represent outreach to layperson organizations with special interest in
arachnids. Randy Mercurio (AMNH) delivered a presentation regarding the REVSYS
project to the American Tarantula Society (Phoenix, 2007). The co-PI also
delivered a presentation on North American scorpions at Venom Week: 2nd
International Scientific Symposium on Venomous Animals (Albuquerque, 2009).
These meetings are oriented to the medical community, and the natural history
talk was requested to provide doctors and other medical personnel with broader
knowledge of this medically-important group.
Additionally, PI Prendini was interviewed by the American Tarantula Society (ATS)
for an article about his research on scorpions, to be published in the ATS Forum
Magazine. Prendini also contributed two general articles on scorpions aimed at
high school students to Scholastic Science World and Scholastic SuperScience:
‘Scorpions: Friend or Foe?’ (January 2008, pp. 10, 11). He also reviewed, and
provided content and images to an article entitled ‘Beware Scorpions’ for Martha
Stewart Kids Magazine (Number 19, Fall 2005, pp. 70, 76–81, 143) and two books
on scorpions aimed at children and/or young adults: Arachnids of the World
(Natural History Museum) by J. Beccaloni (2008); Scorpions: On the Hunt
(Capstone Press, Mankato, MN) (2008). Three articles (two online) appeared in
association with the publication on scorpion book lungs by Kamenz and Prendini
(2009), which acknowledges the grant:
AMNH Website (http://www.amnh.org/science/papers/scorpion_images.php):
‘Microscopic morphology adds detail to scorpion family tree’;
http://www.Physorg.com: ‘Microscopic morphology adds to the scorpion family tree’
Seed Magazine (http://www.seedmagazine.com),
June 2009: ‘Portfolio: A library of lungs’.
Contributions to Resources for Science and Technology:
The REVSYS project website offers a portal for access by researchers,
conservation biologists, students, and the general public to a broad range of
information on the systematics, distribution, and biology of the most diverse
group of scorpions in North America.