Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pterygotus

So a few weeks back we talked about one of the top predators of the Devonian Period, so now lets move back about 400 million years and talk about the terror of the Silurian seas: Pterygotus. Fossilized specimens of these gigantic sea scorpions have been found in New York and Britain.

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Pterygotus is actually a genus name, and members within it comprised some of the largest Arthropods of all time.  With the ability to reach lengths of nine feet, the only other Arthropods that ever reached similar sizes was the Carboniferous Arthropleura. They were completely aquatic, and most likely hunted by laying on the sea floor and ambushing prey. Pterygotus consumed other, smaller invertebrates. They had pincers like modern scorpions, but did not have a stringer-tipped tail. Instead, their tail was broad and most likely used as a paddle to assist with movement, seeing as their legs were very small.

Pterygotus was able to achieve such a large size because of the lack of jawed fish and other predators. No one hunted them and they had no one to compete with. Once jawed fish became more populous, Pterygotus and other large Arthropods began to die out, as they were no longer able to compete. For several million years, however, Pterygotus ruled the seas.

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