Australia is known for having weird and scary animals which vary in size and shape. This isn’t surprising however, because prehistoric Australia also had its share of frightening creatures. During the Paleozoic Era, between 541 and 252 million years ago, one of the largest marine predators to have ever existed on our planet roamed the waters of prehistoric Australia: the sea scorpions, Eurypterida.
Although Eurypterida looked broadly like scorpions (with a similar body shape, albeit built for swimming), they were not. They were more like the cousins of modern scorpions.
Sea scorpions include the largest marine predators to have ever arisen in the fossil record, including one species thought to have been more than 2.5 metres long, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae. Back then, some of these giants were effectively in the same place in their food web as the modern great white shark.
These likely agile swimmers would have used their large front limbs, armed with claws, to grab their prey, which they would then crush between the teeth-like structures on their legs (called gnathobasic spines).
While we’re not sure exactly what these large animals ate, it’s likely fish and smaller arthropods would have been on the menu. And if humans had been around swimming in the sea, maybe us too!
More details about this creature over at The Conversation.
(Image Credit: H. Zell/ Wikimedia Commons)