Dog-sized sea scorpions in south China were ‘top predators’, study shows

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A study has found that large sea scorpions, roughly the size of dogs, may have been among the top predators that roamed the ocean floor of South China 400 million years ago.

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The remains of a sea scorpion, about 3.3 feet long, were discovered by archaeologists, according to a study that will be published in the November 30 issue. science bulletin.

The remains of the scorpion suggest that it was a eurypterid or an ancient arthropod, a relative of the modern arachnid and horseshoe crab.


belongs to fossil Pteropterus zeushanensis, a member of mixopterids – a type of eurypterid having “prosomal organs” or specialized arms lined with tooth-like structures used to capture prey.

“These organs were probably used for prey-catching, and parallels can be drawn with the ‘catching basket’ made by the spiny pedipalps of whip spiders (Amblypygy) among arachnids,” wrote doctoral researcher Wang Han and professor Wang Bo, both from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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Specimen and reconstruction images of the ‘Pteropterus zeushanensis’ sea scorpion

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Specimen and reconstruction images of the ‘Pteropterus zeushanensis’ sea scorpion

The creature lived during the Silurian era between 443 million and 419 million years ago.

“Our knowledge of mixopterids is limited to only four species in two genera, all of which were based on a few fossil specimens from the Silurian Laurusia 80 years ago,” Dr Wang said.

A press release from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology said fossils of appendages and body parts have shown new evidence to expand the “morphological diversity” of mixopterids.

NS teropterus, a large arthropod with a “sharp weapon”, may have been one of the apex predators in the shallow marine environment of South China, it said.

So far, large predators have not been found in the early Silurian environment.

T. zeushanensis Gondwana was also the first mixopterid to be found in the supercontinent, which formed after the large landmass of Pangea split into two.

According to the study, no examples of this group have been found from Gondwana.

“Our first Gondwan mixopterid — along with other eurypterids from China and some undescribed specimens — suggests a low-collection bias in this group,” the study said.

“Future work, particularly in Asia, may reveal a more cosmopolitan distribution of mixopterids and perhaps other groups of eurypterids,” it added.

Previously, a sea scorpion about six feet was found that may have had an exoskeleton “helmet” that shielded its head, a sleek narrow body, and large grasping organs to trap prey.

Scientists named animals Pentecopterus decorhensis, after the “Pentecontor”, an ancient Greek ship rowed by 50 sailors that saw service in the Trojan War.


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