The fossils suggest that ancient scorpions crawled out of the seas and onto land earlier than thought, according to the researchers who analyzed them. In fact, some of the oldest scorpions had the equipment needed to walk out of their watery habitats and onto land, the researchers said. The fossils date back some 430 million to 433 million years, which makes them only slightly younger than the oldest known scorpions, which lived between 433 million and 438 million years ago.
The new species “is really important, because the combination of its features don’t appear in any other known scorpion,” said study leader Janet Waddington, an assistant curator of paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
The new species fell into Waddington’s hands almost by happenstance. Museum curators frequently get calls about fossils, most of which are run-of-the-mill, she told Live Science. But a woman who called about an “insect” in her backyard stone wall had something very exciting on her hands.
“When she showed me this fossil, I just about fell on the floor, it was so amazing,” Waddington said.
The fossil was no insect, but rather a scorpion — and a new species at that. Over the years, more specimens trickled in, mostly from patio stones and rock quarries, and one from a mislabeled fossil at a national park on Canada’s Bruce Peninsula. Now, Waddington and her team have 11 examples of the new species, ranging in length from 1.1 inches (29 millimeters) to 6.5 inches (165 millimeters).
What made the animal, dubbed Eramoscorpius brucensis, so fascinating was its legs.