DEATH VALLEY, Calif. (KTLA) -- Biologists have made an unusual discovery: a tiny new species of scorpion in Death Valley National Park.
Researchers say the discovery is unusual because of the location -- Death Valley lies hundreds of miles north of the known habitat of the new species' closest relatives.
The new scorpion -- Wernerius inyoensis (named after the Inyo Mountains where it was found) -- is just over half an inch long, and may live underground.
Matthew Graham, a doctoral student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, discovered the tiny scorpion during a nighttime search of the park.
Graham said he used a special ultraviolet light that made the animal glow in the dark. Scorpions have chemicals in their exoskeletons that fluoresce under UV light.
Wernerius inyoensis is probably closely related to two other rare scorpions in the desert Southwest: Wernerius spicatus, which is native to Joshua Tree National Park, and Wernerius mumai, which lives along the Colorado River near Parker, Ariz.
Scorpions live all over the world, but in the U.S., you'll most likely find them in the American Southwest in dry, sandy habitats.
Scorpions evolved some 400 million years ago and their bodies have changed very little since. They are predatory arthropod animals within the class Arachnida (they're related to spiders).
There are between 1,400 and 2,000 species of scorpions worldwide, but experts say only 30 to 40 have strong enough poison to kill a person.
In the U.S., there are about 70 species, but only one of the species, the bark scorpion, is dangerous. It is the most venomous scorpion in the U.S. and is considered dangerous to humans.
Scorpions typically eat insects, but their diet can be extremely variable. When food is scarce, the scorpion has an amazing ability to slow its metabolism.
Such survival skills allow scorpions to live in some of the Earth's toughest environments.
The specimen discovered at Death Valley will go on long-term loan to the San Diego Natural History Museum.
New Scorpion Discovered in Death Valley
Wernerius inyoensis is about the size of a thumbnail. Photo: Matthew R. Graham