Abstract Background Arachnids are a highly successful group of land-dwelling arthropods. They are major contributors to modern terrestrial ecosystems, and have a deep evolutionary history. Whip spiders (Arachnida, Amblypygi), are one of the smaller arachnid orders with ca. 190 living species. Here we restudy one of the oldest fossil representatives of the group, Graeophonus anglicus Pocock, 1911 from the Late Carboniferous (Duckmantian, ca. 315 Ma) British Middle Coal Measures of the West Midlands, UK. Using X-ray microtomography, our principal aim was to resolve details of the limbs and mouthparts which would allow us to test whether this fossil belongs in the extant, relict family Paracharontidae; represented today by a single, blind species Paracharon caecus Hansen, 1921. Results Tomography reveals several novel and significant character states for G. anglicus; most notably in the chelicerae, pedipalps and walking legs. These allowed it to be scored into a phylogenetic analysis together with the recently described Paracharonopsis cambayensis Engel & Grimaldi, 2014 from the Eocene (ca. 52 Ma) Cambay amber, and Kronocharon prendinii Engel & Grimaldi, 2014 from Cretaceous (ca. 99 Ma) Burmese amber. We recovered relationships of the form ((Graeophonus (Paracharonopsis + Paracharon)) + (Charinus (Stygophrynus (Kronocharon (Charon (Musicodamon + Paraphrynus)))))). This tree largely reflects Peter Weygoldt’s 1996 classification with its basic split into Paleoamblypygi and Euamblypygi lineages; we were able to score several of his characters for the first time in fossils. Our analysis draws into question the monophyly of the family Charontidae. Conclusions Our data suggest that Graeophonus is a crown group amblypygid, and falls within a monophyletic Paleoamblypgi clade, but outside the family Paracharontidae (= Paracharonopsis + Paracharon). Our results also suggest a new placement for the Burmese amber genus Kronocharon, a node further down from its original position. Overall, we offer a broad phylogenetic framework for both the fossil and Recent whip spiders against which future discoveries can be tested.
|Date made available||21 Apr 2017|