This is the oldest scorpion known to science
Scientists have revealed the oldest known scorpion—and arachnid—on Earth: a mysterious species more than 430 million years old uncovered near Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 29 kilometers west of Milwaukee.
“Anything that pushes the origins of arachnids back further is significant,” wrote paleontologist Jason Dunlop, curator of arachnids at Berlin’s Natural History Museum, in an email to . That’s because arachnids are the second most diverse group of animals after insects, and thus could shed light on the origin of spiders, ticks, mites, and modern-day scorpions.
About 450 million years ago, the Waukesha region used to be a warm, shallow ocean. Over time, low oxygen and high salinity preserved the fossils of the animals that used to roam there.
Researchers first unearthed what would turn out to be the oldest scorpion fossils in the early 1980s. But they didn’t know what they had found, and they filed most of the fossils away in drawers at the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum. Even decades later, “We didn’t know we had scorpions,” says Andrew Wendruff, a paleontologist at Otterbein University.
Wendruff and his team began to work with the Waukesha fossils around 2016, while Wendruff was finishing his Ph.D. After going through the entire collection, which includes mainly arthropods and worms, the researchers noticed what looked like two scorpions. The creatures sported seven sections on their thorax—or belly plates—says Paul Selden, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who was not involved in the research. Younger scorpion fossils have only ...
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