Giant sea scorpions were the original sea monsters, say University of Alberta researchers

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pparsons@postmedia.com

As fearsome as a three-metre-long swimming scorpion might already be, U of A researchers Scott Persons and John Acorn have published a study arguing the most formidable characteristic of the creature was its serrated, slashing tail.

Using the fossil as the basis for their research, the scientists formed a hypothesis about the sea monster’s tail, which was curved to one side and edged with spiny tips. 

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Following the discovery of a new fossil in Lesmahagow, Scotland, Persons and Acorn published a study making a case that the sea scorpion used its serrated tail to slash and kill prey. 

Sea scorpions — properly named eurypterids — were predators haunting primordial seas 430 million years ago. Some species even had pinching claws. Relatives of modern scorpions and horseshoe crabs, sea scorpions had thin, flexible bodies and could grow up to three metres in length.

The paper resulting from Persons and Acorn’s research was published in the March 2017 edition of The American Naturalist.

Unlike other tailed sea creatures such as lobsters and shrimp that flip their tails vertically as a swimming aid, sea scorpions had excellent side-to-side mobility, which was used to make sidelong strikes at prey, Persons and Acorn argue in the paper. 

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Scientists at the University of Alberta are floating a hypothesis that the original "sea monster" had a deadly tail. 

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An artist’s rendering of a sea scorpion using its serrated tail to attack a fish prepared for a 2017 University of Alberta study on the primordial “sea monster.”

 An illustration accompanying the study shows a formidable, armour-shelled sea scorpion with an unfortunate blue fish grasped in its claws as the deadly serrated tail cuts into the fish’s back.
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