November 30, 2005

Tracks of Extinct, Giant Scorpion Found in Scotland

LONDON (Reuters) - Tracks made 330 million years ago by a six-legged water scorpion bigger than a human have been found in Scotland.

Martin Whyte, the geologist at the University of Sheffield in northern England who discovered the tracks, said on Wednesday they were left by a scorpion that measured 1.6 meters (5 ft 3 inches) in length and one meter across.

"To my knowledge, this is ... the largest terrestrial trackway of a walking arthropod to be found so far," he said in a report in the journal Nature.

Arthropods include insects, spiders, crabs, shrimps and lobsters. They have a body divided into distinct parts, an outside skeleton and jointed legs.

Whyte said the now extinct giant scorpion had at least three pairs of appendages of different lengths. Its lumbering movement indicated the creature could have survived out of water.

"The slow, stilted progression, together with the dragging of the posterior, indicates that the animal was buoyant and that it was probably moving out of water," Whyte added.