Two-metre sea-scorpion once prowled Germany

2nd December 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 December 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - An enormous sea-scorpion more than 2 metres long once roamed the shallow seas of what is now Germany, according to palaeontologists. One of the beast's 30-centimetre petrified claws was found at a quarry near Prum, Germany. The scientists said the claw belonged to a prehistoric relative of the modern scorpion that lived in the sea around 400 million years ago. The giant sea-scorpion or eurypterid, lived at a time when arthropods, the jointed legged animals that include inse

2 December 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - An enormous sea-scorpion more than 2 metres long once roamed the shallow seas of what is now Germany, according to palaeontologists.

One of the beast's 30-centimetre petrified claws was found at a quarry near Prum, Germany.

The scientists said the claw belonged to a prehistoric relative of the modern scorpion that lived in the sea around 400 million years ago.

The giant sea-scorpion or eurypterid, lived at a time when arthropods, the jointed legged animals that include insects, spiders and crabs, were much larger than they are today.

But nothing matched the size of the newly discovered eurypterid, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, which would have been longer from pincer claws to stinger than a man is tall.

The creature had a strongly armoured, jointed body, a pair of large "paddles," eight walking legs, and two front limbs with serrated claws.

"This is an amazing discovery," wrote Dr Simon Braddy of the University of Bristol in an article for the journal Biology Letters.

"We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were," Dr Braddy added.

Eurypterids are believed to be the extinct aquatic ancestors of scorpions and possibly all arachnids, the group which includes scorpions and spiders.

When J rhenaniae was alive, fish were still evolving and amphibians and arthropods had only recently started to colonise the land.

Although they were most at home on the sea floor, eurypterids may have occasionally crawled out of the water, some experts believe.

Why some arthropods got so big 300 to 400 million years ago is still a mystery.

One theory is that they thrived due to the higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere at the time.

"There is no simple single explanation," said Dr Braddy. "It is more likely that some ancient arthropods were big because there was little competition from the vertebrates, as we see today. If the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere suddenly increased, it doesn't mean all the bugs would get bigger."

DPA

Subject: German news

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