A new fossil find suggest that ancient scorpions may have crawled out of the seas and onto land earlier than previously thought. The new scorpion species was found fossilized in the rocks of a backyard. The discovery could turn the scientific understanding of these stinging creatures upside down. According to researchers, the fossils dates back some 430 million to 433 million years, which makes them only slightly younger than the oldest known scorpions, which lived between 433 million and 438 million years ago.
The new species “is really important, because the combination of its features don’t appear in any other known scorpion,” said study leader Janet Waddington, an assistant curator of paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Previously, the earliest scorpion fossils found had come from rocks deposited in the water. This lead paleontologists to believe that the animals evolved on the seafloor like crabs. Later on, they became land dwellers. “Ancient scorpions had legs like crabs with a tarsus, or foot segment, that was longer than the segment preceding it. This arrangement, Waddington said, would have meant the creatures walked on their “tippy-toes,” such as crabs do today.”
Scorpions are members of the Arachnida family. They are closely related to spiders, mites, and ticks. Considered desert dwellers but most, they also live in Brazilian forests, British Columbia, North Carolina, and the Himalayas. They are strong and very adaptable arthropods. They have existed for hundreds of millions of years. There are nearly 2,000 scorpion species, but only 30 or 40 contain strong enough poison to kill a person.
According to Paddington, what that discovery means is that the first adaptations that scorpions developed for life on land could have appeared much earlier than researchers once believed. first believed. “Our guys are really, really old,” Waddington said. “They’re vying for the second-oldest [scorpions] known.”