New fossil findings uncovered that an ancient sea scorpion terrorized the waters 460 million years ago, and was likely high in the top of dangerous aquatic predators. An excellently preserved sample was recently found in a meteorite crater, deep within the Upper Iowa River, in northeast Iowa.
Researchers from both the University of Yowa and Yale University gathered to examine the extraordinary samples of not just one, but two extinct specimens of sea scorpions. It belongs to the family of eurypterids, a group of similarly aquatic arthropods ancestors to lobsters or crabs, but it is strongly believed that the sea creature was more likely a long lost processor of spiders.
The odd-looking scorpion was dubbed Pentecopterus after an ancient war galley from the Trojan war, which is rather appropriate considering its aspect alone could have been pulled out straight from Greek mythology. Both the bizarre aspect and its size would’ve made the creature a threat that no one would’ve wanted to meet in the dark depths.
According to James Lamsdell of Yale University, the Pentecopterus lived around 467 million years ago, which is also 10 million years older than any other sea scorpion samples ever discovered. It led to the conclusion that eurypterids must have evolved much earlier than believed.
The collected samples if both an adult and an infant of the species allowed researchers and paleontologists to conclude that it the 5 foot long larger specimen could have easy grown to 6 feet. This human-sized monster of the seas had a long, narrow body, with a “shield” head, which is believed to have made it an important predator of the Paleozoic ecosystem.
In fact, more details about its aspect were also understood due to the excellent preservation of its exoskeleton. According to Derek Briggs, co-author of the study, the Winneshiek fossil site where the seas flooded a meteorite-created crater 3 miles in diameter, is the perfect place for well preserved samples.
Due to the oxygen-poor depths, fossil samples have been perfectly kept that researchers were able to detect even miniscule patterns of hair upon the sea scorpion’s legs. From over 150 collected fossils, they were able to understand the most detailed aspect of Pentecopterus, from fine structures, to scales, follicles and bristles.
The sea scorpion reportedly also had an usual and unique leg in the shape of a paddle that would’ve made for great propelling through the waters, along with grasping long limbs to catch prey.
Considering fish from that time were jawless and barely 12 inch long at the most, they were easy prey for the Pentecopterus’ well shielded and dangerously equipped arsenal.
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