Animal venom, secreted in specialized organs, is an outstanding evolutionary innovation. Venom is a complex mixture of compounds used to disrupt essential processes in target organisms.
Venom evolution could be driven by the ecological or coevolutionary arms race between prey and predator.
Scorpions, as ancient venomous animals rich in toxins affecting ion channels, are excellent candidates to study venom evolution.
Using transcriptomics and proteomics, along with HLPC, I study the diversity of components in scorpion venom, and their effect on specific animals.
Also, I am studying the evolutionary dynamics of toxic components in scorpions using bioinformatics and comparative methods.
My results suggest that scorpion venom has evolved independently in the two major lineages since they diversified almost 400 million years ago.
Scorpion pectines are unique among the great diversity of appendages in arthropods. These appendages, located ventrally on the third segment of the opisthosoma, serve as chemosensory and mechanosensory receptors.
In my previous postdoctoral research, I studied the genetic development of these appendages using techniques such as in situ hybridization, immunochemistry, and appendage transcriptomes in the scorpion species Centruroides sculpturatus Ewing, 1928. My research plans also include the genetic development of venom glands in arachnids using similar methodologies but including gene knockdown in spiders.
WIith over 2400 species worldwide, scorpions are considered part of the mesodiverse arachnids. During my graduate studies, I described 28 scorpion species from different families and different countries. I studied the systematics of Diplocentrus, a scorpion genus distributed in North America mainly, but with some representatives in Central America. Also, in collaboration with Rodrigo Monjaraz, we have studied the systematics of the schizomid family Protoschizomidae. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, I am also studying the evolution of morphology in scorpions and schizomids.
In my current position at ECSU, I use the sequencing of restriction site-associated DNA (RADseq) and ultraconserved elements (UCEs) to explore population genomics and the evolution of North American camel spiders, scorpions, and tarantulas. In other projects, we have studied the cospeciation of Mycoplasma and host scorpions. Lastly, I am participating in a project that studies the impact of climate change in the distribution of scorpions.
-Bolaños et al. 2019. Cophylogenetic analysis suggests cospeciation between the Scorpion Mycoplasma clade symbionts and their hosts. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0209588
-Ureta et al. (2020). Climate change will have an important impact on scorpion's fauna. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation 18(2): 116-123
-Graham et al. (2020). Pleistocene persistence and expansion in tarantulas on the Colorado Plateau and the effects of missing data on phylogeographical inferences from RADSeq. Molecular Ecology.
-Santibáñez-López & Possani. 2015. Overview of the Knottin scorpion toxin-like peptides in scorpion venoms: Insights on their classification and evolution. Toxicon 107: 317-326.
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2016. Venom gland transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of the enigmatic Scorpion Superstitionia donensis (Scorpiones: Superstitioniidae), with insights on the evolution of its venom components. Toxins 8: 367.
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2017. Venom gland transcriptomic and venom proteomic analyses of the scorpion Megacormus gertschi Díaz-Najera, 1966 (Scorpiones: Euscorpiidae: Megacorminae). Toxicon 133: 95-109
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2018. Integration of phylogenomics and molecular modeling reveals lineage-specific diversification of toxins in scorpions. PeerJ 6: e5902
Nolan et al. (2020). Developmental gene expression supports the monophyly of Arachnopulmonata and refutes a single colonization of land in the evolutionary history of Chelicerata. Developmental genes and Evolution, 230: 137-153.
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2014. Phylogeny of the North American scorpion genus Diplocentrus Peters, 1861 (Scorpiones: Diplocentridae) based on morphology, nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Arthropod Systematics and Phylogeny 72: 257-279.
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2014. Shinning a light into the world's deepest caves: Phylogenetic systematics of the troglobiotic scorpion genus Alacran Francke, 1982 (Typhlochactidae: Alacraninae). Invertebrate Systematics 28: 643-664.
-Monjaraz-Ruedas et al. 2016. Annuli and setal patterns in the flagellum of female micro-whipscorpions (Arachnida: Szhicomida): Hypotheses of homology across and Order. Zoologischer Anzeiger 263: 118-134.
-Monjaraz-Ruedas et al. 2017. The mophological phylogeny of family Protoschizomidae revisited (Arachnida, Schizomida): setae characters, fossil and paraphyletic genera. Journal of Arachnology 45: 99-111.
-Santibáñez-López et al. 2017. eadem figura manet: Measuring morphological convergence in diplocentrid scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones: Diplocentridae) under a multilocus phylogenetic framework. Invertebrate Systematics 31: 233-248.