There has been no shortage of incredible sights to behold at the Grand Canyon National Park lately. Last week, a rare Grand Canyon weather pattern filled the canyon with a sea of fog, and just a few days ago, scientists discovered two new species of scorpion-like lifeforms. Dubbed “pseudoscorpions” by enthusiasts, the creatures are actually two previously undiscovered species.
First discovered between 2005 and 2007, they were originally thought to be unremarkable, but a recent rediscovery has opened the door for speculation of the cave that these two similar species were discovered. Their similarity suggests a robust food chain, far beyond what researchers previously thought could exist in this small cave. Since the arachnids share a food source, these two species’ ability to evolve alongside each other has sparked newfound interest in the ecosystem.
The physical appearance of these newly discovered creatures is very distinct from the appearance of most scorpions. The most noticeable difference is that these pseudoscorpions don’t have their characteristic long, pointed tails to deliver poison with. Instead, these pseudoscorpions have poisonous barbs on their claws that allow them to paralyze their prey before consuming it. They also apparently have no eyes whatsoever, an evolutionary result of their pitch-black ecosystem.
These creatures are likely descended from desert-dwelling scorpions, but after the distant ancestors of these pseudoscorpions began taking refuge in caves, they adapted to their new, competitive environment. Their primary sources of food lie in tiny invertebrates and insects who, in turn, eat the feces of crickets and the fungus that grows on the feces.
In a symbiotic relationship with larger creatures, the new pseudoscorpions actually latch onto other animals for transportation, allowing the species to spread and prosper in areas that would normally be inaccessible. In return, the creatures feed on pests like ticks, mites, fleas, and other annoyances during their journey.
The cave these new species were discovered in is tiny, but incredibly dense with wildlife. The cave itself is home to one of the largest cricket roosts in northern Arizona, and it has the most diverse selection of cave-adapted arthropods in the entire Grand Canyon.
While the two creatures may appear extremely similar to the naked eye, their distinction was discovered when a taxonomic specialist examined their claws. This specialist pored over every detail of the new creatures looking for similarities between the two new scorpions and other species around the world. In the end, it was decided that these new species are, in fact, newly discovered, but despite their similar appearances, they’re not two of the same species. One has a thicker pair of legs and a mound on its pincer while the other simply has a much deeper pincer than the other.
The newly-discovered creatures have been dubbed Hesperochernes bradybaughii and Tuberochernes cohni after cave research advocate Jeff Bradybaugh and entomologist Theodore Cohn, respectively.
How do you feel about this discovery? Do you feel that the Grand Canyon National Park is doing enough to preserve the wildlife so that more new species can be discovered? Let us know in the comments section below!