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  1. Abstract Species of camel spiders in the family Eremobatidae are an important component of arthropod communities in arid ecosystems throughout North America. Recently, research demonstrated that the evolutionary history and biogeography of the family are poorly understood. Herein we explore the biogeographic history of this group of arachnids using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data, morphology, and distribution modelling to study the eremobatid genus Eremocosta , which contains exceptionally large species distributed throughout North American deserts. Relationships among sampled species were resolved with strong support and they appear to have diversified within distinct desert regions along an east-to-west progression beginning in the Chihuahuan Desert. The unexpected phylogenetic position of some samples suggests that the genus may contain additional, morphologically cryptic species. Geometric morphometric analyses reveal a largely conserved cheliceral morphology among Eremocosta spp. Phylogeographic analyses indicate that the distribution of E. titania was substantially reduced during the last glacial maximum and the species only recently colonized much of the Mojave Desert. Results from this study underscore the power of genome-wide data for unlocking the genetic potential of museum specimens, which is especially promising for organisms like camel spiders that are notoriously difficult to collect.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  2. null (Ed.)
  3. Research progress on the order Solifugae, commonly known as camel spiders, has been hindered by challenges inherent in collecting these fast-moving, nocturnal predators. Recently, pitfall trapping combined with artificial light lures showed promise for improving capture rates, but the hypothesis that camel spiders are attracted to light traps (positive phototaxis) has never been tested. We constructed short pitfall trap arrays with and without lights across the Mojave Desert to test the light attraction hypothesis. Nearly all camel spiders we collected were found in traps with suspended lights, lending strong support for positive phototaxis. Distance from the lights within trap arrays does not appear to be correlated with the success of individual pitfall traps. Excitingly, our short pitfall light arrays, or Caterpillar light traps, were relatively easy to install and yielded an order of magnitude more camel spiders per effort hour than previously reported techniques.
  4. Scorpion toxins are thought to have originated from ancestral housekeeping genes that underwent diversification and neofunctionalization, as a result of positive selection. Our understanding of the evolutionary origin of these peptides is hindered by the patchiness of existing taxonomic sampling. While recent studies have shown phylogenetic inertia in some scorpion toxins at higher systematic levels, evolutionary dynamics of toxins among closely related taxa remain unexplored. In this study, we used new and previously published transcriptomic resources to assess evolutionary relationships of closely related scorpions from the family Hadruridae and their toxins. In addition, we surveyed the incidence of scorpine-like peptides (SLP, a type of potassium channel toxin), which were previously known from 21 scorpion species. We demonstrate that scorpine-like peptides exhibit gene duplications. Our molecular analyses demonstrate that only eight sites of two SLP copies found in scorpions are evolving under positive selection, with more sites evolving under negative selection, in contrast to previous findings. These results show evolutionary conservation in toxin diversity at shallow taxonomic scale.
  5. Scorpion toxins are thought to have originated from ancestral housekeeping genes that underwent diversification and neofunctionalization, as a result of positive selection. Our understanding of the evolutionary origin of these peptides is hindered by the patchiness of existing taxonomic sampling. While recent studies have shown phylogenetic inertia in some scorpion toxins at higher systematic levels, evolutionary dynamics of toxins among closely related taxa remain unexplored. In this study, we used new and previously published transcriptomic resources to assess evolutionary relationships of closely related scorpions from the family Hadruridae and their toxins. In addition, we surveyed the incidence of scorpine-like peptides (SLP, a type of potassium channel toxin), which were previously known from 21 scorpion species. We demonstrate that scorpine-like peptides exhibit gene duplications. Our molecular analyses demonstrate that only eight sites of two SLP copies found in scorpions are evolving under positive selection, with more sites evolving under negative selection, in contrast to previous findings. These results show evolutionary conservation in toxin diversity at shallow taxonomic scale.