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1 December 2009 Scorpion taphonomy: criteria for distinguishing fossil scorpion molts and carcasses
Victoria E. McCoy, Danita S. Brandt
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The ability to distinguish fossil arthropod carcasses from their molts is necessary for a more complete understanding of the arthropod fossil record and for more accurately assessing the role of fossil arthropods in paleoecosystems. Taphonomic characteristics, e.g., recurrent patterns of disarticulation of exoskeletal elements, are the primary data that have been used to differentiate fossil exuvia and fossil carcasses among arthropods. This study documents recurrent taphonomic patterns in modern scorpion carcasses and molts and extends these patterns to the fossil record to define criteria by which fossil scorpion molts might be distinguished from fossil scorpion carcasses. The three most useful and statistically significant characters in making the scorpion carcass/molt distinction are: position of the chelicerae (drawn in or extended); position of walking legs (folded or splayed); and body line (straight or curved). Two other characteristics, the position of pedipalps and presence or absence of telescoped segments, approach statistical significance and are also potentially useful. Disarticulation data are not as useful for distinguishing fossil scorpion molts and carcasses, because there are no statistically significant differences in length of time to total disarticulation or in the sequence of disarticulation between scorpion molts and carcasses. Among extant arthropods, scorpions possess the body plan most similar to that of the extinct eurypterids. Therefore, the taphonomic criteria developed for distinguishing fossil scorpion molts and carcasses may have implications for understanding molting among eurypterids.

Victoria E. McCoy and Danita S. Brandt "Scorpion taphonomy: criteria for distinguishing fossil scorpion molts and carcasses," The Journal of Arachnology 37(3), 312-320, (1 December 2009).
Received: 30 January 2009; Published: 1 December 2009
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