Scorpions (Arachnida) from Costa Rica

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1987
Authors:O. F. Francke, Stockwell S. A.
Journal:Special Publications of Texas Tech University Press

The scorpion fauna of Costa Rica has received sporadic treatment in the literature. The only comprehensive report is that of Pocock (1902). In Biologia Centrali-Americana, he recorded four species of Buthidae from Costa Rica, three in the genus Centruroides Marx and one in Tityus Koch, based on less than a dozen specimens. Viquez (1935) listed nine species for Costa Rica but, as indicated below, his work is fraught with errors. Our study of hundreds of specimens from Costa Rica indicates that its scorpion fauna is more diverse than previously known. In this contribution, we propose one synonymy, we dismiss reports of six species for Costa Rica, we report for the first time three species for that country, and finally we describe three species new to science.

The fauna of Costa Rica as presently known includes representatives of four of the nine families of Recent scorpions, distributed among 14 species in seven genera. Much has been written about the role of Central America as a biogeographic barrier to marine organisms in the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, and its role as a bridge for the terrestrial biota of North and South America (for example, Marshall et al., 1982). As would be expected, the scorpion fauna of Costa Rica consists of a mixed assemblage of taxa with northern and southern affinities. The genus Centruroides (Buthidae) is diverse and abundant in North America and the Caribbean region. The genera Ananteris Thorell (Buthidae), Chactas Gervais (Chactidae), Opisthacanthus Peters (Ischnuridae), and Tityus Koch (Buthidae), are clearly South American, and their northern (or northwestern) limits of distribution are in Costa Rica. The genus Didymocentrus Kraepelin (Diplocentridae) is a circum-Caribbean element found in Central America and the Antilles. Finally, the species of Isometrus Hemprich and Ehrenberg (Buthidae) found in Costa Rica is a pantropical taxon widely dispersed by man. 

Aside from isolated taxonomic works, we are unaware of any other publications dealing with the biology or medical significance of scorpions in Costa Rica. Some members of the genera Centruroides and Tityus have neurotoxic venoms that can cause death in humans. Most of the species from Costa Rica are too rare and poorly known to state definitely their potential medical significance. Others are inferred (based on studies on congeneric species) to have low concentrations of, or altogether lack, neurotoxins and thus are of no medical concern. The venom of Centruroides margaritatus (Gervais), the only member of the Costa Rican scorpiofauna studied, has a low mammalian toxicity (Marinkelle and Stahnke, 1965). We hope that the taxonomic and distributional information presented herein will stimulate further research into the biology of Costa Rican scorpions.

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