Sand scorpions of the genus Buthacus Birula, 1908 (Buthidae C.L. Koch, 1837) are widespread in the sandy deserts of the Palearctic region, occurring from the Atlantic coast of West Africa across the Sahara, and throughout the Middle East to Central Asia. The limits of Buthacus, its two species groups, and many of its species remain unclear, and in need of revision using modern systematic methods. The study presented here set out to investigate the phylogeny and biogeography of the Buthacus species occurring in the Levant, last studied in 1980. A phylogenetic analysis was performed on 104 terminals, including six species collected from more than thirty localities in Israel and other countries in the region. Three mitochondrial and two nuclear gene loci were sequenced for a total of 2218 aligned base-pairs. Morphological datasets comprising 22 qualitative and 48 quantitative morphological characters were compiled. Molecular and morphological datasets were analyzed separately and simultaneously with Bayesian Inference, Maximum Likelihood, and parsimony. Divergence time and ancestral range estimation analyses were performed, to understand dispersal and diversification. The results support a revised classification of Levantine Buthacus, and invalidate the traditional species groups of Buthacus, instead recovering two geographically-delimited clades, an African clade and an Asian clade, approximately separated by the Jordan Valley (the Jordan Rift Valley or Syro-African Depression), the northernmost part of the Great Rift Valley. The divergence between these clades occurred in the Early Miocene (ca. 19 Ma) in the Levant, coinciding temporally with the existence of two land bridges, which allowed faunal exchange between Africa and Asia.
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© 2021 Elsevier Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology