Water scorpion fossil discovered in Scotland may prove species survived on land

A scientist in Scotland has discovered tracks made by a huge water scorpion 330 million years ago, the first of the species ever discovered and the only evidence showing it could survive outside of the water, according to the journal Nature's edition to be published Thursday.

Martin Whyte, a lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield, discovered the fossil of a hibbertopteroid _ a type of scorpion _ in Scotland's Midland Valley.

"There has been in the past discussion centering around hibbertopteroid gills, feeding structures and limb strengths and whether or not these animals could come out of the water. Here at last is independent evidence that they could," he told The Associated Press.

According to Whyte's analysis of the fossil, the creature was a six-legged water scorpion measuring 2 meters (5 feet) long and 1 meter (3 feet) wide. The length of its stride indicates that the animal was crawling extremely slowly. Evidence that it was dragging part of its body suggests that it was probably moving out of water, Whyte said.

"The central groove shows that the tail of the animal was not buoyed up or supported by water and striations on the side of the groove show that motion was jerky. Though this might not be typical, it does suggest that this animal was not very adept at moving out of water," he said.

Whyte said he has been keeping the exact location of his find secret until he can make a replica of the trackway, AP reported. V.A.

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