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Exploring the evolution and terrestrialization of scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones) with rocks and clocks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Richard Howard
  • Gregory D. Edgecombe
  • David Legg
  • Davide Pisani
  • Jesus Lozano-Fernandez
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-86
Number of pages16
JournalOrganisms Diversity and Evolution
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Jan 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Mar 2019


Scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones Koch, 1837) are an ancient chelicerate arthropod lineage characterised by distinctive subdivision of the opisthosoma and venomous toxicity. The crown group is represented by over 2400 extant species, and unambiguous fossil representatives are known at least from the Cretaceous Period. However, a number of extinct scorpion lineages existed in the Palaeozoic Era, many of which are of a contentious marine (or at least semi-aquatic) lifestyle, and have long caused confusion regarding the nature of arachnid terrestrialization and arachnid phylogeny more broadly. To clarify the process of terrestrialization, there is a need to marry fossil and extant scorpions in a common evolutionary framework utilizing modern advances in phylogenetics. Here, we review phylogenetic hypotheses of arachnid and scorpion interrelationships, relevant advances in phylogenetic divergence time estimation and the scorpion fossil record – especially with reference to terrestrialization. In addition, we provide a list of scorpion fossil calibrations for use in molecular dating and demonstrate their utility in deriving a novel scorpion timetree using Bayesian relaxed-clock methods. Our results reveal a window of divergence from 335-266 Mya for the scorpion crown group, consistent with a Pangean origin of crown scorpions inferred from the biogeographical distribution of the extant fauna.

    Research areas

  • scorpions, arachnids, molecular clocks, terrestrialization, phylogenetics, palaeobiology

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