By: April Carson
The existence of sea scorpions is no longer in doubt, which is fortunate since land scorpions do not have a good reputation. These arthropods are closely related to horseshoe crabs and arachnids, like spiders.
Researchers looked at a fossil that had been lying around for years at the Queensland Museum in Australia and determined it belonged to an intimidating slew of hunters that were formerly extinct.
The sea scorpion, which weighed about two pounds (one kg), was a "gigantic monster" that may have reached three feet in length, according to the museum. It inhabited the lakes and rivers of what is now the Australian town of Theodore. It's the first sea scorpion fossil to be found in Queensland.
We've encountered other sea scorpion fossils in the past, such as a dog-sized species discovered near China. Eurypterids are the formal name for sea scorpions. Woodwardopterus freemanorum is now known as the new specimen.
The fossil was first discovered in the 1990s and studied by the museum in 2013. COVID lockdowns allowed Andrew Rozefeld, Queensland Museum's geosciences principal curator, to reinvestigate the "cold case" creature, which had previously been unidentified.
"When the fragmentary specimen entered our collection, it was initially placed in the 'too-hard basket,' but the closures permitted us to study and reconsider portions of our fossil collection," said Dr. Rozefelds.
The researchers discovered the fossil in Australia's New South Wales. Dr. Markus Poschmann of Liverpool John Moores University, and lead author Robert Rozefelds, an eurypterid specialist, dated it to 252 million years old.
This was around the time that sea scorpions vanished, making Woodwardopterus freemanorum one of the last known specimens of its kind. "This new tantalizing find helps to fill a gap in our understanding of this species globally," said Robert Rozefelds, PhD candidate at Liverpool John Moores University in northwest England and lead author on the study.
The ancient species of pinchers were identified in a pair of ichthyosaur fossils from the early Triassic period. They're relatives of modern scorpions and other arachnids, although they may have been somewhat larger. Whew! Theodore's sea scorpion would have been a top predator in its day, but we modern humans don't have to worry about tangling with it.
With a number of large predators roaming the seas, early Triassic seas must have been quite dangerous for marine vertebrates. "It's likely that the ichthyosaurs were at least occasionally hunted by such creatures," said Rozefelds.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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