Ancient Sea Scorpion Slashed Prey With Serrated Tail Spine

Posted on April 25, 2017

Eurypterids (also known as sea scorpions) inhabited the seas around 430 million years ago. They grew up to 3 meters in length and had flexible bodies and pinching claws. University of Alberta scientists Scott Persons and John Acorn hypothesize that these ancient sea monsters could also kill using their serrated, slashing tail spines.

Persons says in a statement, "Our study suggests that sea scorpions used their tails, weaponized by their serrated spiny tips, to dispatch their prey."

The idea was sparked by the discovery of a new fossil specimen of Slimonia acuminata. The fossil was found in the Patrick Burn Formation near Lesmahagow, Scotland. It shows a sea scorpion with its serrated-spine-tipped tail curved strongly to one side. The scientists say that eurypterid tails were vertically inflexible but horizontally highly mobile.

Persons says, "This means that these 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."

A research paper on the discovery was published in the journal, The American Naturalist.s

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