Gi­ant sea scor­pion fos­sil dis­cov­ered

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

YOU WOULDN’T WANT to bump into this guy when you were out for a leisurely swim! Palaeon­tol­o­gists at Yale Univer­sity have dis­cov­ered fos­sils be­long­ing to a gi­ant preda­tory sea scor­pion.

Dubbed Pen­te­copterus dec­o­ra­hen­sis, thanks to its re­sem­blance in shape to the an­cient Greek war­ship known as a pen­te­con­ter, the an­i­mal could grow to al­most two me­tres in length and had a heav­ily ar­moured head and large, grasp­ing limbs for trap­ping prey.

The crea­ture lived around 467 mil­lion years ago, making it the old­est eu­rypterid – a group of aquatic arthro­pods that were the an­ces­tors of mod­ern spi­ders, lob­sters and ticks – dis­cov­ered to date. Re­searchers say that it is likely to have lived in shal­low, brack­ish wa­ter with a low salt con­tent that would have been in­hos­pitable to more typ­i­cal marine an­i­mals.

“This dis­cov­ery shows that eu­rypterids evolved some 10 mil­lion years ear­lier than we thought, and the re­la­tion­ship of the new an­i­mal to other eu­rypterids shows that they must have been very di­verse dur­ing this early time of their evo­lu­tion, even though they are very rare in the fos­sil record,” said James Lams­dell, a post­doc­toral ge­ol­o­gist who was lead au­thor of the study, which was pub­lished in the jour­nal BMC Evo­lu­tion­ary Bi­ol­ogy.

The fos­sils were un­earthed in a flooded me­te­orite crater near to the Up­per Iowa River in north­east­ern Iowa, USA. Both adult and ju­ve­nile Pen­te­copterus dec­o­ra­hen­sis spec­i­mens were found, giv­ing the re­searchers a wealth of in­for­ma­tion about the an­i­mal’s phys­i­ol­ogy and de­vel­op­ment. The lack of oxy­gen in the crater has also meant that the fos­sils are in­cred­i­bly well pre­served.

Too cute to add to paella?

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