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Sustentation of the Cuban Cave scorpion

Research project to better understand Cuban cave scorpion behaviour.

Cave scorpion (Tityopsis sheylae)

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North America



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The Insular Caribbean comprising of the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles and larger islands of Cuba, is considered among the most biodiverse regions of the world, particularly because of the high number of single-island endemic species.

Cuba is the largest island and also the country with the highest species richness in this region and where some lineages have undergone impressive adaptive radiations over the course of time.  Nearly 1,800 species of arachnids inhabit this archipelago, but very little is known about this neglected invertebrate group.  This island has the richest scorpions relative to land surface of the world (61 species, 92% endemic).  The accelerated habitat loss and fragmentation combined with people’s ignorance and superstitions regarding these arachnids, are pushing many species to the verge of extinction.

The MBZ Fund assisted with a research trip to the El Indio caves, primarily for data collection.  Onsite, the research team found lots of plastic and rubbish, a sign that humans managed to gain access to the species environment.  Upon researching the cave scorpion, we found less than 10 of the target species, including two adults.  However, they also found a high density of another scorpion, Centuroides gracilis, a predator that is well known for eating other scorpions, including its own species.  This might explain the dwindling number of cave scorpions.   They also observed other native species including tarantulas, whip spiders, frogs’ lizards, boas and bats.  The latter is essential for creating a microclimate, but have also declined in numbers compared to previous expeditions.

The cave was cleaned, and data collected.  A second trip will be scheduled to collect comparative data.  Based on this feedback a remedial plan of action will be devised.


Project lead by

Tomas Michel Rodríguez Cabrera

Instituto de Ecología y Sistemática

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