The ambers of Chiapas State, Mexico, were laid down in the Miocene (and possibly Oligocene) in shallow marine environments. The amber is thought to be derived from resin secreted from a Leguminous tree of the genus Hymenaea, which lived in mangrove forests along the Caribbean shoreline. This amber is almost identical to amber produced in similar mangrove forests during the Miocene in the Dominican Republic and to a lesser extent other parts of the Caribbean, and a thriving, and sometimes illegal, trade in these fossils, combined with poor recording by commercial fossil collectors (particularly those acting illegally) means that fossils in Caribbean amber derived from private collections can be hard to connect to their point of origin. To date two Scorpions have been described from Chiapas Amber, and at least four further specimens attributed to this source are known in private collections, however the exact provenance of these fossils is unclear as precise data on the outcrops which produced them is unavailable.
In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 5 August 2015, Francisco Riquelme of the Escuela de Estudios Superiores de Jicarero at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Gabriel Villegas-Guzmán of the Laboratorio de Acarología at the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Edmundo González-Santillán of the Laboratorio de Aracnología at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Víctor Córdova-Tabares, also of the Laboratorio de Acarología at the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Oscar Francke of the Colección Nacional de Arácnidos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Dulce Piedra-Jiménez, also of the Laboratorio de Aracnología at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Emilio Estrada-Ruiz of the Laboratorio de Ecología at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and Bibiano Luna-Castro of the Museo del Ámbar de Chiapas, describe Scorpion preserved in amber from the Early-Middle Miocene Guadalupe Victoria site near Simojovel in Chiapas, the first known fossil Scorpion that can be confidently assigned to a specific amber-producing site in Chiapas.
The new Scorpion is placed in the large (and probably paraphyletic – not containing all the descendants of the last common ancestor of the group) genus Tityus, within the Family Buthidae, and given the specific name apozonalli, which means ‘sea-bubble’ or ‘sea-foam’ in the Náhuatl language, and which was the term used amber by the pre-Columbian Aztecs.
Tityus apozonalli. (A) Amber piece, arrow indicates the position of fossil inclusion, scale bar 10 mm. (B) General view of fossil Scorpion, scale bar 5 mm. (C) Close view of the specimen, scale bar 2 mm. Riquelme et al. (2015).
Tityus apozonalli is thought to be most closely related to the modern species Tityus clathratus and Tityus columbianus, which are known from the Caribbean Islands, Central America and northern South America, as well as showing features in common with members of the genus from Dominican Amber, and to a lesser extent Tityus knodeli, which is attributed to Chiapas Amber, though of uncertain origin. A single specimen assigned to the genus has been described from Baltic Amber from Europe, Tityus eogenus, however this was described in 1869 and is now missing, and so is considered somewhat dubious.
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