Sunday, December 2, 2007

Attack of the Giant Scorpion

In a quarry near the German town of Prüm, scientist Markus Poschmann discovered an 18-inch fossilized claw which once belonged to a sea scorpion that must have been over 8 feet long. This scorpion would have been larger than a man, and it is the largest arthropod (i.e. animal with a segmented body, jointed limbs and an exoskeleton) ever uncovered.

In their article, published in the UK Royal Society journal Biology Letters, Poschmann and his colleagues report that this species (Jaekelopterus rhenania) lived between 460 and 250 million years ago during the Paleozoic era. It would have been one of the top predators in the food chain. They also believe that an arthropod of this size would have had difficulty walking on land and thus they were probably limited to acquatic habitats.

Co-author Simon Braddy says that scientists had long surmised that present-day creepy crawlies such as millipedes, cockroaches, scorpions and dragonflies were once much larger, but this is the first evidence of just how gigantic some of their ancestors were. One reason Paleozoic arthropods reached such colossal proportions was because of the elevated levels of oxygen in the atmosphere. In their report, the scientists also theorize that aquatic arthropods such as this sea scorpion evolved this way because it gave them an advantage against their prey the armored fish. During this era, much of the land making up continents such as North America was covered by epeiric seas (shallow bodies of salt water).

The giant arthropods died out when vertebrae predators came on the scene who viewed them as a hearty meal, leaving behind their smaller relatives who creep us out today. This is no reason, however, that they couldn't make an awesomely bad monster movie about one of these giant scorpion. J Lo, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson could star in it, and the tag line could be "He's been extinct for 250 million years... and now he's pissed off!"

Photo is a still from Clash of the Titans (c) Titan Productions found on theseventhvoyage.com

2 comments:

mennu said...

This reminds me of a sketch from the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Belushi was playing some kind of cross between Truman Capote and Andy Warhol who was a film critic whose area of expertise was "Giant Insect 3-D Fear Films." Lorraine Newman played some kind of European who said, "I saw this film. It made me nauseous."

Josie said...

oooo cweepy...