Temporal range: Carboniferous
Graeophonus is an extinct genus of tailless whip scorpion described from three species found in the Carboniferous fossil record. The genus is known from two, or possibly three, species described from North America and England. Graeophonus is related to the modern African genus Paracharon and has been placed in the same family, Paracharontidae.
A single fossil from the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia area was interpreted as a fossil dragonfly larvae and described by Samuel Hubbard Scudder in 1876 as Libellula carbonaria. The fossil was very incomplete, consisting of a solitary opisthosoma. With the discovery of more complete fossils from Mazon Creek, Illinois, and Joggins, Nova Scotia, Samuel Scudder redescribed the fossils as amblypygids and moved the species to a new genus, Graeophonus as Graeophonus carbonarius. While describing the British species, Graeophonus anglicus, Reginald Innes Pocock noted significant differences between the Nova Scotian and more complete Mazon Creek fossils. As a result he erected the species Graeophonus scudderi to accommodate the Mazon Creek specimen, and restricted species G. carbonarius to the Canadian specimens. It was later suggested by Reginald Pocock in 1913 that the two species, G. carbonarius and G. scudderi were indeed the same, and this has resulted in confusion over both the name to be used and number of species present in North America.
Graeophonus anglicus has been found in the English Middle Coal Measures of Coseley, Staffordshire. Known from ten specimens that are now deposited in the British Museum, the species was named by Reginald Pocock in 1911. The size of more complete G. anglicus specimens ranges from 11–13 millimetres (0.43–0.51 in). The type specimen, BMNH In 31233, was recovered from the Claycroft Open Works in Coseley. The partly complete 18 millimetres (0.71 in) long specimen shows a distinct pear-shaped ocular tubercle on the carapace, indicating the species was not blind.
The morphology of both the abdomen and pedipalps in Graeophonus is very similar to the modern genus Paracharon. While Paracharon is notably blind, this is thought to be a secondary result of living almost exclusively within termite mounds. Thus the blindness was not considered a reason to exclude Graeophonus from Paracharontidae.
- Scudder, S.H. (1876). "A century of Orthoptera. Decade VI. Forficulariae (North America)". Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History. 18: 257–264.
- Dunlop, J.A.; Zhou, G.R.S.; Braddy, S.J. (2007). "The affinities of the Carboniferous whip spider Graeophonus anglicus Pocock, 1911 (Arachnida:Amblypygi)". Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 98: 165–178. doi:10.1017/S1755691007006159.
- Dunlop, J.A. (1994). An Upper Carboniferous amblypygid from the Writhlington Geological Nature Reserve. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 105:245-250.