British and American paleontologists have described a fossil of a giant sea scorpion, whose appearance has been reconstructed from the preserved back of the animal, mainly from its tail and the so-called telson – a tail spike. An article about this was published in the journal Historical Biology.
The new species of marine scorpions was named Hibbertopterus lamsdelli after the famous expert on fossil sea scorpions, the American paleontologist James Lamsdell of West Virginia University. Hibbertopterus lamsdelli belongs to a group of bizarre extinct aquatic arthropods called eurypterids, or in other words crustaceans, which sometimes reached a height of two meters. The fossil, found in New Mexico, in the rocks 305 million years old in the mountains of Manzano, near Albuquerque, is a sea scorpion about 1.2 m long. The fossil was stored at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
“If you were swimming in the water 300 million years ago and encountered an animal like this, it probably wouldn’t pose a threat to you, but personally, if I encountered a four-foot scorpion swimming with me in the water, I would prefer to get ashore,” was how one of the authors of the article, paleontologist Spencer Lucas, curator of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, commented on the find to the Albuquerque Journal.
Hibbertopterids were armored “sweepers” who used special spikes on their feet to stir up muddy sediments in search of food, which consisted of small invertebrates. Fossils of other hibbertopterids have also been found in Europe and South Africa. Sea scorpions became extinct around 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian, but before that, most had converted to life in freshwater.