Bacterial endosymbiont infections in ‘living fossils’: a case study of North American vaejovid scorpions


  • Robert W. Bryson Jr

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology & Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
    • Correspondence: Robert W. Bryson Jr, Fax: 206-685-3039; E-mail:

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Bacterial endosymbionts are common among arthropods, and maternally inherited forms can affect the reproductive and behavioural traits of their arthropod hosts. The prevalence of bacterial endosymbionts and their role in scorpion evolution have rarely been investigated. In this study, 61 samples from 40 species of scorpion in the family Vaejovidae were screened for the presence of the bacterial endosymbionts Cardinium, Rickettsia, Spiroplasma and Wolbachia. No samples were infected by these bacteria. However, one primer pair specifically designed to amplify Rickettsia amplified nontarget genes of other taxa. Similar off-target amplification using another endosymbiont-specific primer was also found during preliminary screenings. Results caution against the overreliance on previously published screening primers to detect bacterial endosymbionts in host taxa and suggest that primer specificity may be higher in primers targeting nuclear rather than mitochondrial genes.