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A harvestman (Arachnida: Opiliones) from the Early Devonian Rhynie cherts, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

  • Jason A. Dunlop (a1), Lyall I. Anderson (a2), Hans Kerp (a3) and Hagen Hass (a3)

A harvestman (Arachnida: Opiliones) is described from the Early Devonian (Pragian) Rhynie cherts, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Eophalangium sheari gen. et sp. nov. is the oldest known harvestman. The material includes both males and a female preserving, respectively, a cuticle-lined penis and ovipositor within the opisthosoma. Both these structures are of essentially modern appearance. The Rhynie fossils also show tracheae which are, again, very similar to those of living harvestmen. This is the oldest unequivocal record of arachnid tracheal respiration and indicates that E. sheari was terrestrial. An annulate, setose ovipositor in the female suggests that it can be excluded from the clades Dyspnoi and Laniatores, in which the ovipositor lacks such annulations. However, the penis shows evidence of two muscles, a feature of uncertain polarity seen in modern Troguloidea (Dyspnoi). The presence of median eyes and long legs excludes Cyphophthalmi, and thus, E. sheari is tentatively referred to the suborder Eupnoi. Therefore, this remarkable material is implicitly a crown-group harvestman and is one of the oldest known crown-group chelicerates. It also suggests an extraordinary degree of morphological stasis within the eupnoid line, with the Devonian forms differing little in gross morphology – and perhaps in reproductive behaviour – from their modern counterp

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Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of The Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • ISSN: 1755-6910
  • EISSN: 1755-6929
  • URL: /core/journals/earth-and-environmental-science-transactions-of-royal-society-of-edinburgh
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