Facts about Sea Scorpions, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Sea Scorpions


Sea Scorpions

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Superphylum Ecdysozoa
  (unranked) Panarthropoda
  Phylum Arthropoda
  Subphylum Chelicerata
  Class Eurypterida
Sea Scorpions ("Eurypterids") are a group of extinct arthropods that may possibly predate the earliest fishes. These animals are not true scorpions (which are part of the class Arachnida), but are believed to be related to the Arachnids and Xiphosura (horseshoe crabs) - indeed, historically, they have often been classified together with horseshoe crabs as "Merostomata".

The earliest fossils of Sea Scorpions date from the Ordovician period, about 460 million years ago, although an earlier trace fossil ("Protichnites"), dated to the Cambrian period, about 510 million years ago, is evidence of a land living predatory arthropod, which may well be an early Eurypterid.

Sea Scorpions were predators. They evolved in warm shallow seas, but in later periods they tended to live in freshwater or brackish water, rather than the sea. The fossils of Sea Scorpions are found throughout the world, and it is thought possible that some species may have been amphibious - coming on to land for part of their lifecycle, and probably capable of breathing in both water and air.

In life, Sea Scorpions had a semicircular carapace, a jointed section containing twelve body segments, and a long tail which often tapered and ended with a spine. The spine on the tail, was in some cases spiked, but it is unclear whether it could have been venomous. Sea Scorpions had a pair of compound eyes, and a paid of smaller eyes ("ocelli") between them. Attached to the carapace were paddles, and these could have been used for swimming, and possibly digging. Sea Scorpions also had two large claws at the front ("chelicerae"), and four pairs of jointed legs - fossil trackways suggest that some species may have used six-legged (hexapodous) and others eight-legged (octopodous) gaits.

Most species of Sea Scorpions were quite small, less than 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length. However there were also some larger types - the genus Jaekelopterus, seems to have included animals up to about 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length.

Since 1984, Eurypterus remipes, a species of Sea Scorpion has been the State of Fossil of New York.

Sea Scorpions Timeline:

Sea Scorpions were arthropods that lived in the seas between 510 and 248 million years ago

Sea Scorpions were arthropods that lived in the seas between 510 and 248 million years ago

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