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Keywords:

  • Chelicerata;
  • Scorpiones;
  • morphology;
  • phylogeny;
  • Emsian;
  • terrestrialization

Abstract:  Palaeoscorpius devonicus Lehmann, 1944 is known from only a single specimen, found in the Eschenbach Pit near Bundenbach in the Lower Devonian Hunsrück Slate of Germany. It is a key fossil, having been interpreted both as the most basal member of the Scorpiones and as one of the order’s most likely candidates for an aquatic mode of life. Prepared both ventrally and dorsally, some aspects of its morphology remain problematic. Here, with the aid of new techniques, including computed tomography, we present a re-investigation of this scorpion’s anatomy and a new reconstruction, with a particular focus on the species’ original habitat. On the basis of the environmental interpretation of the Hunsrück Slate and the completeness of the specimen, previous authors concluded that P. devonicus was marine, but none offered convincing morphological evidence. Recent studies of the deposit’s environment suggest that the Hunsrück Sea was part of an intrashelf basin, relatively close to the coastline, and fossils of land plants show that terrestrial wash-in occasionally occurred. Our revised interpretation of the fossil’s morphology demonstrates that the scorpion was most probably terrestrial. Internal mesosomal organs are interpreted as book lungs, but other terrestrial adaptations are lacking. The absence of both coxapophyses and gnathobases makes determining the scorpion’s feeding mechanism difficult. Interpreting the scorpion’s character states within a phylogenetic framework, especially the possible presence of book lungs, implies either that the plesiomorphic position of P. devonicus is no longer supported or that the development of book lungs had already taken place early in the scorpion lineage.