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Three metre long sea scorpion could slash you to death with its tail

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Posted April 24, 2017

There are plenty of scary animals in the world, but nothing like in prehistoric era. For example, there was a three metre sea scorpion, which used its tail to kill its pray before eating it. Three metre long – that is something difficult to imagine, but scientists from the University of Alberta say that they have ancestors in today‘s era.

Fossils revealed that sea scorpions could kill their pray by slashing them with their tails. Image credit: Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia

Eurypterids, better known as sea scorpions, preceded the evolution of barracudas or sharks. They were original sea monsters – if they lived to day there would be movies about them attacking people. Hollywood could name them something like “Pinching Claws” or even “The serrated, slashing tail”, because those were the main weapons of eurypterids. In fact, scientists from the University of Alberta just recently discovered the tail spike that sea scorpions used to kill their pray.

had some serrated spiny tips, which essentially weaponized their tails. They could stab their victims with their tails or strike with them like swords. In fact, some species of eurypterids did not even have claws, used to pinch smaller creatures before devouring them. So in some cases serrated, slashing tail spine was the only weapon of the sea scorpion. Which makes this three metre long creature even scarier.

In fact, this weapon was very effective. Sea scorpions could move their tails very easily in a horizontal plane, but could not move it vertically. Scott Persons, one of the authors of the study, explained: “sea scorpions could slash their tails from side to side, meeting little hydraulic resistance and without propelling themselves away from an intended target. Perhaps clutching their prey with their sharp front limbs eurypterids could kill pretty using a horizontal slashing motion”.

This study was conducted after finding new fossil specimen of the eurypterid Slimonia acuminate. Analysis revealed that tail for them was used as a cold weapon and was not venomous – pray was killed just by the striking it. Interestingly, modern scorpions and horseshoe crabs are related to eurypterids. It means that predecessors of three metre long sea scorpion still live today and are still very unpleasant to see in case of scorpions. Modern scorpions sometimes use venom for defence or hunting, but there are still some species that use their tail to stab the animal until it can be eaten.

On one hand, it is hard to imagine a person who would wish that these animals were still dominating our seas. But on the other, they would make for some good horror movie villains.

 

Source: University of Alberta

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