Sunday, 10 April 2016

?Opsieobuthus tungeri: A Scorpion from the Permian Petrified Forest of Chemnitz in eastern Germany

Scorpions are a highly successful group of predatory Arachnids, with over 1750 described living species and a fossil record dating back to the Silurian. There are currently 131 described fossil Scorpion species, however these are not distributed evenly through the fossil record, with over sixty described species from the Carboniferous and less than ten from most other geological periods. To date Permian Scorpions are known only from some fragmentary remains from Isady in the Vologda Region of Russia and a trace fossil interpreted as a Scorpion track from Arizona.

In a paper published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology on 7 April 2016 Jason Dunlop of the Museum für Naturkunde at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity at the Humboldt University Berlin, David Legg of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Paul Selden of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas and the Natural History Museum in London, Victor Fet of the Department of Biological Sciences at Marshall University, Joerg Schneider of the Geological Institute at TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Kazan Federal University and Ronny Rößler also of the Geological Institute at TU Bergakademie Freiberg and of the Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz, describe a new species of Scorpion from the Early Permian Petrified Forest of Chemnitz in Saxony in eastern Germany.

The Chemnitz Petrified Forest is a preserved forest ecosystem buried by a pyroclastic flow, which contains one of the most complete known Permian ecosystems. As well as 53 upright tree stumps the system contains palaeosols (fossil soils) which an extensive root network and numerous chunks of detached wood. Animal fossils include Myriapods, Trigonotarbids, numerous Gastropods and some Vertebrate material

The new Scorpions are tentatively assigned to the Carboniferous genus Opsieobuthus and given the specific name tungeri in honour of the geologist Bernd Tunger for his work on the Chemnitz Petrified Forest. The species is described from two specimens, a tentatively identified as a male and a female, and is distinguished from other members of its genus on the basis of exceptionally large pectines (comb-shaped scent organs on the underside of a Scorpion), which protrude beyond the body.

Top: ?Opsieobuthus tungeri, female specimen (?), part and counterpart from the palaeosol beneath the Zeisigwald Tuff Horizon, Leukersdorf Formation (lower Permian, Sakmarian) of the Chemnitz Petrified Forest, Saxony, Germany. Bottom: Interpretative drawings of the specimens. Abbreviations: ac, aculeus; ca, carinae; ch ?, possible chelicera; cx, coxa; cxa, coxapophysis; le, lateral eyes; op, operculum; ot, ocular tubercle; pe, pedipalp; pec, pectines; ps, pedal spur; su, superimposed coxa and pectines; tc, tarsal claws; ts, tibial spur; ves, vesicle; wi, wing-like structure; ?, disarticulated cuticle fragment of uncertain affinity. Legs numbered from I–IV. Dunlop et al. (2016).

The tentative sexual differentiation of the specimens is based upon the pectines, which in modern Scorpions tend to be larger and have more teeth in males. The female specimen is 120 mm in length and preserved within what appears to be a burrow, along with some fragments of what may be a recently shed skin. The male specimen is 130 mm in length, although it appears to have been compressed in a way that shortened it when buried.

Top: ?Opsieobuthus tungeri, male specimen (?), part and counterpart from the palaeosol beneath the Zeisigwald Tuff Horizon, Leukersdorf Formation (lower Permian, Sakmarian) of the Chemnitz Petrified Forest, Saxony, Germany. Scale bar is 10 mm. Bottom: Interpretative drawings of the specimens. Abbreviations: ac, aculeus; ca, carinae; ch ?, possible chelicera; cx, coxa; cxa, coxapophysis; le, lateral eyes; op, operculum; ot, ocular tubercle; pe, pedipalp; pec, pectines; ps, pedal spur; su, superimposed coxa and pectines; tc, tarsal claws; ts, tibial spur; ves, vesicle; wi, wing-like structure; ?, disarticulated cuticle fragment of uncertain affinity. Legs numbered from I–IV. Dunlop et al. (2016).

Dunlop et al. note that the close proximity of the male to a recently ecdysed female (female that has recently shed its skin) is interesting, as many modern male Scorpions will find and guard female subadults close to maturity, mating with them once they moult and become sexually responsive, and suggest that the proximity of the two specimens may indicate similar behaviour in these Permian Scorpions.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/tityus-apozonalli-new-species-of.htmlTityus apozonalli: A new species of Scorpion from Miocene Chiapas Amber.                    The ambers of Chiapas State, Mexico, were laid down in the Miocene (and possibly Oligocene) in shallow marine environments. The amber is thought to be derived from resin secreted from a Leguminous tree of the genus Hymenaea, which lived in mangrove...
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/a-scorpion-from-late-devonian-of-south.htmlA Scorpion from the Late Devonian of South Africa.                                                             Scorpions are thought to have been among the earliest Animals to colonize the land, with specimens...

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