Monday 28 May 2012

An Eocene False Scorpion from Baltic amber.

False Scorpions are Arachnids related to Camel Spiders, Harvestmen and True Scorpions; they resemble Harvestmen with enormous, Scorpion-like claws, but are very small (the largest known species is only 12 mm in length) and consequently quite harmless. They have a long fossil history, dating back 380 million years to the Middle Devonian, and have changed little in this time.

In a paper published in the May 2012 edition of the journal Palaeontologica ElectronicaHans Henderickx of the Department of Biology at Universiteit Antwerpen and Paul Tafforeau and Carmen Soriano of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility describe a new species of False Scorpion from two specimens in Baltic amber.

The new species is placed in the genus Pseudogarypus; modern members of this genus are known from North America and Tasmania, but fossil European species have previously been described, including at least one species from Baltic amber. It is named Pseudogarypus synchrotron in honor of the equipment that allowed detailed visualization of the optically hidden parts of the fossil.

(1) Photograph of the first specimen in the amber. (2) Magnified view. Henderickx et al. (2012).

Pseudogarypus synchrotron is a 2.5 mm False Scorpion with elongated, slender pincers. It has been described from two specimens obtained from (separate) commercial dealers, both being set in Baltic amber, thought to be about 46 million years old.

Synchrotron images of the first specimen of Pseudogarypus synchrotron. Henderickx et al. (2012).

Synchrotron images of the second specimen of Pseudogarypus synchrotron. Henderickx et al. (2012).

Baltic amber is the preserved resin of Eocene coniferous trees that formed huge forests covering much of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Since this floats it is often found on beaches around the Baltic Sea, and sometimes further afield, making the precise dating of individual pieces difficult.

Interpretive drawing of Pseudogarypus synchrotron. Henderickx et al. (2012).

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