Oldest Sea Scorpion Discovered

Posted: Aug 31 2015, 9:37pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


Oldest Sea Scorpion Discovered
Artistic image of giant sea scorpion YALE UNIVERSITY

The giant scorpion dates back to 460 million years ago and is measured more than 5 feet long

Scientists have discovered the fossil of the oldest sea scorpion in Iowa State, which they believe was alive 460 million years ago. The giant scorpion is measured more than 5 feet long and it belongs to the oldest known species of eurypterid or sea scorpions. 

The extinct scorpion was among the largest scorpion species and had the remarkable ability to swim the seas in ancient times. 

“The new species is incredibly bizarre. The shape of the paddle – the leg which it would use to swim – is unique, as is the shape of the head. It’s also big – over a meter and a half long.” James Lamsdell, a Yale University researcher and lead author of the study said.

“Perhaps most surprising is the fantastic way it is preserved. The exoskeleton is compressed on the rock but can be peeled off and studied under a microscope. This shows an amazing amount of detail, such as the pattern of small hairs on the legs. At times it seems like you are studying the shed skin of a modern animal – an incredibly exciting opportunity for any paleontologist.” Lamsdell said in a statement.

Scientists named the new species “Pentecopterus decorahensis” after “Penteconter”, an ancient Greek Warship. The species looks like the giant vessel and its aggressive behavior also resembles with it.

This is now the oldest known sea scorpion ever to be found. The previous ancient species was about 10 million years old. Paleontologists believe that the giant sea scorpion can grow up to 6 feet, which is surreal when it comes to the most eurypterids of that time.

There are about 150 fossil fragments from at least 30 individuals. The fossils were collected from Winneshiek Shale in Northeastern Iowa. The well-preserved fossil pieces also help researchers interpret the function of the sea scorpion body.

Its front limbs have massive spines which he probably used to catch his prey. One pair of limbs had large paddles which helped him swim through the water. Three pairs of limbs are shorter than the front pairs that suggest he walked on six legs rather than eight.

“We could see how the legs are articulated with each other, and how it would have moved,” said Lamsdell. “We see lots of insertion points for hairs, which can tell us how it saw its outside environment.” 

The research was published in BMS Evolutionary Biology.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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