A newly-discovered sea scorpion could be the first underwater predator in the history of the world. This is what scientists are claiming about a creature they found in rocks from a crater in Iowa.
When the United States had been allegedly covered in water in prehistoric times, the creature may have been the shark of the era about 460 million years ago. It was dubbed the Pentecopterus decorahensis for its shape, being similar to that of a Greek warship (pentecoster), and for its possible speed of movement. The eurypterid measures up to 5.6 feet in length, and is one of the most bizarre discoveries of its era.
The Pentecopterus, of which at least 20 specimens have been found, had scientists confused by its biology. James Lamsdell, a postdoctoral associate of paleontology at Yale University, has said that it was difficult deciding what species the sea scorpion belonged to, according to Yahoo News.
“The best way to describe this animal is bizarre. For a long time, I had trouble being sure that this was one species because there are so many strange things about it.
The new species is incredibly bizarre. The shape of the paddle – the leg which it would use to swim – is unique, as is the shape of the head. [The scorpion is] also big – over a meter and a half long.”
Among those strange things were its specialized limbs, the rear of which seem to have had locked joints for swimming. The limbs forward of these were angled forward, possibly as a way to catch prey.
It was also suggested that the younger Pentecopterus had different spines on its legs, indicating that it may have foraged in the sand for its food. This is much like the modern shrimp, which is a bottom feeder. Possibly related more closely to arachnids, or spiders, the sea scorpion may have had eight legs, but only walked on six of them, much like a scorpion.
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The outer shell was extremely well-preserved in the rock from the Iowa crater, and indicates that the creature may have had a carapace, much like a crab. Scientists were able to peel the carapace off the rock and study it under a microscope, according to the Washington Post.
Further analysis of the creature could also open up genetic discoveries much like those from dinosaur blood, which was previously reported by the Inquisitr.
With these recent breakthroughs, we may be able to see what life was actually like in the days of the ancient sea scorpion.
[Image via YouTube screen grab]