Monday, September 23, 2013

Eurypterus

Eurypterus sp.
The world of the Silurian period was very different from the world of today. Most noticeably, there were no land animals. All of the living animals could be found underwater, populating the oceans that covered many of our present continents.

In these oceans you could find all sorts of primitive life. Bony fish were just starting to make their appearance on the evolutionary timeline, for example. You could also find a massive array of invertebrates, including the members of the genus we'll be learning about today-- Eurypterus.

Eurypterus includes 15 different species of Sea Scorpion, all of whom lived between 432 and 418 million years ago. Their fossils have been uncovered in what is now eastern North America and Europe, and interestingly the first fossils dug up were confused for Catfish bones!

When we think about Scorpions today, we imagine small arachnids that are about the size of your hand. Eurypterus was much, MUCH larger. On average, the different species measured 1-2ft in length. However, the largest fossil showed a creature that was over 4ft long!

Eurypterus had a body made up of two segments-- the prosoma and the opisthosoma. The former contains the head, thorax, and appendages that are used for walked, eating, and swimming. The latter is segmented and contains the gills and reproductive organs.

Members of the genus were opportunistic feeders-- they both hunted and scavenged. While they could swim using their large paddle-like appendages, they did not swim in order to hunt. Eurypterus walked along the sea floor when it was searching for food.

The Eurypterus genus only lasted for 14 million years, which is a short amount of time when compared to other members of its Order. Amazingly though, despite that short amount of time they are the most represented Eurypterids in the fossil record-- nearly 95%!

Status : Extinct for 418 million years
Location : Europe, North America
Size : Length up to 4.3ft (1.3m)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Merostomata -- Order : †Eurypterida
Family : †Eurypteridae -- Genus : †Eurypterus
Image : Funkmonk

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