A 436-Million-Year-Old Scorpion Was One of the Planet’s First Air Breathers

The Parioscorpio venator is a newly discovered scorpion that dates back to the early Silurian period. It’s answering numerous questions regarding the first arachnids and the adaptations that enabled some of the first animals on the planet to migrate from aquatic to terrestrial habitats.

This scorpion is now the oldest ones in the fossil record. The name, Parioscorpio Venator, means “progenitor scorpion hunter.” It lived sometime between 437.5 and 436.5 million years ago. Before the Parioscorpio venator, the world’s oldest scorpion fossil was Scotland’s Dolichophonus loudonensis. It was estimated to be about 434 million years old and is now about 1 to 3 million years younger than the Parioscorpio Venator.

A Scorpion Living in Water and on Land

A 436-Million-Year-Old Scorpion Was One of the Planet’s First Air Breathers

Two of the scorpion fossils were uncovered at the site of a shallow tropical sea. The creature lived alongside other marine animals like cephalopods, trilobites, worms, and other arthropods. The Parioscorpio venator was an aquatic animal; however, recent research shows that the scorpion spent some of its time on land, based on its unique anatomy. That made it one of the earliest air breathers on the planet.

This is a crucial discovery because scorpions, in general, were one of the first animals to make the full transition to a terrestrial mode of life. The Parioscorpio Venator shows scientists which adaptations likely enabled the scorpions, along with other animals, to make the transition from water to land.

A 436-Million-Year-Old Fossil of the Planet’s First Air Breathers

Fossils with Potential

The original fossils of the Parioscorpio venator were found in the year 1985 in Wisconsin. They sat for about 35 years at the University of Wisconsin, unstudied. Paleontologists Loren Babcock from Ohio State University and Andrew Wendruff from Otterbein University saw the potential for significance in the fossils and took a closer look.

The paleontologists used a biostratigraphy technique to study the fossils. That is how they made this discovery.