Tags: sea | scorpions | beachgoers

Sea Scorpions Were No Threat to Beachgoers 400 Million Years Ago

By    |   Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 12:53 PM

Ancient sea scorpions, thankfully long-extinct, just got a little less scary with the news that their hunting and killing prowess was less than previously imagined.

Pterygotids, which are related to modern day arachnids like spiders and scorpions, were the largest arthropods that ever lived, measuring up to 6.5 feet in length and sporting a pair of 2-foot-long claws. According to LiveScience.com, however, their claws may not have been very strong, and their eyes and sight may have been shoddy by human standards.

"These things were almost certainly still predators of some kind, but the imagined notion that they were swimming around terrorizing anything that looked edible is probably an exaggeration," said Derek Briggs, a paleontologist at Yale University and co-author of the new study, published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters.

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Even though the sea scorpions' pincers were the size of tennis rackets, scientists determined they would be unable to crack into armored fish or cephalopod shells, like those of the nautilus.

It was also revealed that the pterygotids were likely bumping around in the deeper, darker ends of the ocean, gnawing on softer, slower prey for the roughly 35 million years they graced the oceans over 400 million years ago.

Briggs and his team discovered as much by comparing the lenses inside the sea monsters's eyes to those of its living ancestors. In some cases, the lenses were big enough to examine without equipment, but others were so small they had to be examined under an electron microscope. The result, very limited eyesight, could have been a key factor in their eventual extinction.

National Geographic concluded that, like their modern-day ancestors — horseshoe crabs — pterygotids were most likely making an "inglorious living as bottom scavengers."

Nonetheless, Briggs said it was a "good thing" the creatures are no longer around, as "They wouldn't be good company."

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Ancient sea scorpions, thankfully long-extinct, just got a little less scary with the news that their hunting and killing prowess was less than previously imagined.
sea, scorpions, beachgoers
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2014-53-09
Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 12:53 PM
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