As much as we think we understand the natural world, it turns out nature is still capable of throwing us the occasional curveball.
Case in point, the journal ZooKeys has recently documented the discovery of a new species of scorpion — first spotted by an amateur herpetologist among some scattered debris in March 2020.
Taking a stroll around, as described in the original study, a “relatively undeveloped” plot of land in Fresno County, Brian Hinds saw a bright colored and unfamiliar scorpion crawling around an array of trash and abandoned concrete slabs.
Posting a photo to iNaturalist, a website allowing hobbyists like him to upload and discuss scientific research, Hinds and his fellow herpetologists debated the image, speculating that he had stumbled onto a heretofore unknown creature.
Following this lead, a team of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences went to that same plot of land to follow up on Hinds’ photo in August 2021 and April and September 2022.
Sure enough, not only did they find 29 specimens of the same unusual yellow/orange scorpion, but they also determined it belonged to a completely new species, dubbed Paruroctonus tulare or Tulare Basin scorpion, The Sacramento Bee reported.
As the study’s lead co-author, Lauren Esposito, told the Bee, while venomous, the creepy crawly poses no significant threat to humans. That said, as she told SFGate, the creature’s environment is highly unusual, found in “a little remnant along a road of seminative habitat, mostly filled with trash,” and could easily have been bulldozed away before anyone had the chance to identify them.
The proximity of their habitat to human activity and industry already puts it at risk of endangerment, though it has yet to fulfill the criteria to be put on that list. Still, the creature has proved remarkably resilient simply for surviving in its habitat of trash and concrete slabs.
Esposito’s words provide a sobering reminder of our need to practice responsible stewardship of our natural resources — after all, if this new scorpion just barely escaped being bulldozed into oblivion, how many other creatures may have been obliterated before they could be identified?
Not that the life of a scorpion compares in the slightest to a human’s, but, as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, we bear the responsibility of using the natural resources given to us, well, responsibly. The earth and the animals therein are ours to use, not to abuse.
Still, the discovery of a brand new creature should remain for us a source of wonder.
Despite our culture’s propensity for jadedness with regard to scientific discovery, the discovery of this unusual little scorpion demonstrates how far we are from knowing everything about the natural world, or even our own backyards.
God’s creation is still bewildering, beautiful, strange, and, above all, still carries with it an element of the unknown — especially in a land as vast and gorgeous as the United States, where scientists are continually discovering new species and identifying new creatures.
While often tiny insects and creepy crawlies, to be sure, the fact that even now we are still stumbling upon heretofore unknown species speaks to the overwhelming natural diversity of our country.
What other big finds might be out there, still waiting to be discovered?
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.