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Man Sized Sea Scorpion Fossil Found

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the try-saying-that-four-time-frantic dept.

Science 216

hereisnowhy writes "A giant fossilized claw discovered in Germany belonged to an ancient sea scorpion that was much bigger than the average man, an international team of geologists and archaeologists reported Tuesday. In a report in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, the team said the claw indicates that sea scorpion Jaekelopterus rhenania was almost 2.5 meters long, making it the largest arthropod — an animal with a segmented body, jointed limbs and a hard exoskeleton — ever found. In the report, the authors said the scorpion exceeds previous size records for arthropods by almost half a meter."

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216 comments

Has anyone seeen my aereoplane???? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434309)

welled iiiiiIIIIon't use so many caps. It's likII don't use so many caps. It's lik

Man Sized? (5, Funny)

tak amalak (55584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434321)

Try double-man sized. That thing must weigh 4 times what a man weights. 2 times what an American weighs.

Re:Man Sized? (4, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434405)

Try double-man sized. That thing must weigh 4 times what a man weights. 2 times what an American weighs.
It's all extrapolation. I bet it had a 46cm claw and a tiny disproportionate 4cm body with weedy legs, making it the early equivalent to the modern programmer and not the scary hideous gargantuan portrayed by the media.

Dubious extrapolation (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434663)

It's pretty dubious. You can't extrapolate the size of the animal from the size of a claw. Many arthropods today-- lobsters, fiddler crabs, stone crabs-- have an enlarged claw. Particularly if sexual selection acts on the size of the claw ("that guy has a really big one. Ooh! He must be fierce").

Take a look, for example, at this picture [sc.gov] of a Fiddler crab, or even this picture [foodreference.com] of a stone crab, and then scale the "computer-generated visualization" in the article to that claw to body size, and you'll estimate that the guy is, maybe, half a meter long.

Re:Dubious extrapolation (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21435875)

Near-complete specimens of pterygotid [wikipedia.org] eurypterids [wikipedia.org] (which is what this thing is) are already known, and were already known to exceed 2 metres in length. For example, look at this specimen of Pterygotus [langsfossils.com] from a famous locality in New York where eurytperid specimens are mined. So, this isn't some random extrapolation where the remaining anatomy is complete guesswork, it is based on the typical anatomy in the group. Pterygotus and its relatives was freaking huge. While it is true that this specimen could be from a species with an exaggerated claw size compared to other pterygotids, the claws described in the paper are pretty darn big, even for one of these sea scorpions.

Re:Dubious extrapolation (5, Insightful)

aeroelastic (840614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435947)

Actually, with fossils, you sometimes have to do a lot of extrapolation. Very often you only find bone fragments or shell parts, especially with rare species. Euripterid fossils are relatively common, and the different species (300+) are fairly well documented. It is not a stretch to get a reasonably accurate length measurement based on one part. It would be similar to estimating human height based on hand size.

It has been a while since my paleo-biology days, but I have no recollection of asymmetric body structures of any kind of euripterid. A quick search turns up no records of any species with different sized claws. Euripterids are more closely related to scorpions or spiders than crabs anyway. Info here, under classification: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelicerata [wikipedia.org]

Re:Man Sized? (4, Funny)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434567)

Obviously you watch too much TV, if you think the American weight average is double everyone else. Just because you see extreme cases all the time doesn't mean that everyone in America is like that. We don't have THAT many bulemic movie stars to throw the curve off that much...we're at least 3 or 4 times fatter than the rest of the world, not just double. Sheesh.

Re:Man Sized? (2, Informative)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434719)

Thanks to the McDonaldization of Europe, there are now plenty of fatties waddling around the old continent too.

At least you can get a beer or wine with your KFC.

Re:Man Sized? (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435197)

Obviously you watch too much TV, if you think the American weight average is double everyone else.
That's correct. He watches too much television and doesn't exercise. Therefore he's only half the weight of the average American. Being outside the US, he doesn't have drive-through access to greased offal, tootsie rolls and four liter corn syrup drinks intended to be consumed in one sitting.

Fiddler crabs, enlarged limb, the /. audience -- there's a joke in there somewhere but I'm too busy to find it.

Amazing (2, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434323)

Who says the age of giants was only during the dinosaur era? It appears more and more that nature gets into these size races, then massive killing off, then start over. I wonder how long before we're standing at over 15 feet ourselves?

Re:Amazing (4, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434373)

Nobody does. It's believed that the last ice age killed off many larger versions of creatures that are very similar to what we have today. Think pony:horse comparisons, but where our modern day horses were considered the "ponys".

Re:Amazing (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435179)

Nobody does. It's believed that the last ice age killed off many larger versions of creatures that are very similar to what we have today.
The current widelw-accepted theory is that human predation caused those extinctions in the Americas, which was enabled by the last ice age (from the diaspora of peoples via the north pacific land bridge). Large animals that did not co-evolve with humans were easy prey for voracious hunter-gatherers. Large carnivorous animals followed, due to both reduction of their food supply by human hunters, and by direct hunting by humans.

In Eurasia, reduced habitat due to encroaching ice reduced mammoth populations, not just because of less food, but also because it forced the mammoths to migrate to areas where human predation was a bigger problem. Not sure if this is considered the current theory for the cave bear as well.

Re:Amazing (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435427)

If, by widely accepted, you mean that environmental activists try to make people feel guilty by claiming that humans have been destroying their environment since the dawn of civilization.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011025072315.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Extinctions amongst megafauna during the end of the last ice age are better-attributed to {gasp} the end of the last ice age! Large, heavy-coated, cold-adapted animals couldn't deal with global warming. Stone-age humans were certainly hunting individual mammoths, camels, etc. but human society and technology was simply not advanced or numerous enough to kill off multiple species in a short time frame.

Re:Amazing (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435707)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/06/010608081621.htm [sciencedaily.com] says the exact opposite, from about 6 months earlier than the synopsis you provided.

It's an area of debate, to be sure. My understanding is that (like the mammoth in Eurasia example I used in my OP in this thread) there was negative population pressure from both means -- climate change enabled overkill, but overkill was the ultimate cause of extinction.

Also note that the paper you refer to speaks specifically of the Clovis people of 11000 years ago; it hints at the earlier presence of man in the Americas, but a lot has been published since 2001 on when man came to the Americas. Do you know of any recent research on the topic that I would find helpful? I'm guessing by your userID that you're at minimum a serious hobbiest... if you could point me towards additional enlightening materials I'd appreciate it.

Re:Amazing (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434633)

I wonder how long before we're standing at over 15 feet ourselves?

Unlikely, given the tendency of current humans to become wider rather than taller :P

Seriously, though, with Earth's gravity, a 15ft human would have to either be very thin or wear an artificial exoskeleton to help support the weight.

Re:Amazing (2, Interesting)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434801)

Exactly: We are already at the max size for our current skeletal design, as anyone over 6-4 (about 190 centimeters for those of you who use a logical measurement system) should be able to tell you. To grow any taller we'd need further extension of our ribcage (or something) to support our lower torso better.

Anyone past that height currently either has back problems, or keeps themselves in decent shape so that their mucles can take some of the load in moderate high-stress situations, like falling over when you trip.

Re:Amazing (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434987)

a 15ft human would have to either be very thin or wear an artificial exoskeleton to help support the weight.

Giraffes seem to get by quite well without the artificial exoskeleton, and they can reach upwards of a ton in weight.

Re:Amazing (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435123)

Giraffes seem to get by quite well without the artificial exoskeleton, and they can reach upwards of a ton in weight.

But they are very thin, and also quadrupeds.

They're also unlikely to become as ubiquitous as humans, since most of the world doesn't have acacia trees for them to graze on (acacia trees that not many other creatures can graze on, because the food is too high up - hence the evolution of the giraffe as a specialist acacia feeder).

Re:Amazing (1, Insightful)

BigDumbAnimal (532071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435891)

Burn karma Burn

They're also unlikely to become as ubiquitous as humans, since most of the world doesn't have acacia trees for them to graze on (acacia trees that not many other creatures can graze on, because the food is too high up - hence the evolution of the giraffe as a specialist acacia feeder).

Horse poo. Think about it.

First animal: "Hey! look at those yummy acacia leaves. Too bad they are like 15 feet up there".
Next Generation: "Still looks yummy, too bad it is still 15 feet up there."
Next Generation: "Hey! Now I am getting closer! Still can't get any acacia yet!"
Next Generation: "only 8 feet more to got!!!"
NG...
NG...
NG...
Giraffe: "Mmm... yummy Acacia."

A slightly taller horse/(giraffe ancestor?) would have no special advantage unless they became 15 feet tall in one generation. And if that happened, their head would explode the first time they leaned down for a drink of water without the special valves in their veins. Don't forget to 'evolve' those while you are getting taller.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21435151)

The body type of a giraffe is oh-so-slightly different from a human's, wouldn't you say? Or are you really that stupid?

Re:Amazing (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435185)

Seriously, though, with Earth's gravity, a 15ft human would have to either be very thin or wear an artificial exoskeleton to help support the weight.

That's where genetically engineered bones and organs come into play. Seriously, it would take something tremendous (global epidemic, nuclear war, etc.) to make humans humans evolve "naturally." I suspect all our future evolution will be artificial.

Re:Amazing (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434765)

Considering "Giant-killer" is a heroic title from ancient history, it might be a while. Sure, we're 10-20cm taller than folks from previous eras, but we seem pretty stable for now.

Re:Amazing (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435311)

Who says the age of giants was only during the dinosaur era?
 
Speaking of giants, they only found 1 of these things, not a whole race of them. How do they know it wasn't the "Andre the Giant" of the sea scorpions?

eurypterids (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434333)

Irypterids, eurypterids, werypterids. Bet they got some tasty tails.

Re:eurypterids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434553)

Yes, but would you eat it with butter? Or with Tartar sauce? Lobster fork or Pitchfork?

Re:eurypterids (1)

protolith (619345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435583)

Imissedthebus, youmissedthebus, wemissedthebus, weallmissedthebus

I do like the thouoght of a 40lb lobster claw, I agree eurypterids would probabaly be some tasty eating.

Re:eurypterids (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435809)

so, we will need 25lbs (10 kilos for our metric friends) of butter, a bushel basket (I don't know the metric conversion for that) of lemons, and a BIG fscking bib for that baby.
Yum. unless they taste like giant squid, yuck.

Yes, but (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434345)

Can it rock you like a hurricane or summon the winds of change?

Arthur Clarcke (2, Interesting)

Ploum (632141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434391)

Mmm, am I the only one for which giant sea scorpions sounds more like songs of distant earth than rock music ?
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Songs_of_Distant_Earth [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Arthur Clarcke (1)

keithius (804090) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435051)

I was just thinking of that myself. Thank goodness these things are extinct, so we don't have to start building electrified scorp barriers.

DNA (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434349)

I hope they can get DNA from this fossil. If we had these things crawling around, even the Nanny State couldn't prevent idiots from surviving.

Re:DNA (3, Insightful)

monomania (595068) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434523)

Well, it being a fossil of an ordinary type, there's no biological material remaining whatsoever; from the photograph you'll note that it's merely the chitinous exoskeleton of the claw -- it's entirely mineralized, as with so many such fossils; so, no DNA. Such cases, wherein soft tissue is preserved, are incredibly rare. I share your interest however in being able to recreate such a beast. Looks like tasty eatin'. Certainly not kosher. But tasty, I'll wager.

I, for one... (4, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434357)

...would be legging it the other way if I found that under a rock.

Re:I, for one... (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435435)

...would be legging it the other way if I found that under a rock.

Given it's size I'd be concerned that the rock I'm running on is the one it's under. Bugger of a thing to jump off the end of the rock and land right in it's claw.

Obl. (-1, Redundant)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434363)

I, for one, welcome our old Eurypterid overlords.

Re:Obl. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434449)

Good God, aren't you bored of that yet? Do you think you are the man for 'thinking it up'? You. Loser.

Re:Obl. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434679)

Let me be the first to welcome our redundant-slashdot-meme-posting overlords.

2.5 metres (3, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434365)

The previous record was 2 metres, already quite scary enough. Well, I hope they keep updating us on any slightly larger seafood they find.

It has to be said... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434387)

I, for one, welcome our new ancient sea scorpion overlords.

Headline (2, Funny)

Ristol (745640) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434413)

"Sea scorpion fossil belonged to biggest bug ever: scientists" Wonderful editing they have these days.

Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434417)

I don't know which one is the scarier:
-finding proof of alien races [wikipedia.org] living deep down in our oceans
-having a wikipedia articles dedicated to the aforementioned races

Wow (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434421)

That's the second biggest scorpion I ever saw...

Re:Wow (1)

Ristol (745640) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434541)

Out of curiosity, anyone know the origin of the joke? I've seen it referenced in both Monkey Island and the Garfield and Friends cartoon I watched in the (very) early 90's. If Garfield is referencing Monkey Island that would make the show much cooler than I'd previously thought!

Re:Wow (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435203)

I distinctly remember it being a catchphrase on "Get Smart", so it goes back to the '60s at least. It may be older than that; I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn it goes back to vaudeville--a lot of the classics do.

Chris Mattern

Seriously... f@#k that (5, Funny)

bmajik (96670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434443)

You're telling me scorpions, which are scary enough at 2 inches in length, used to run around here at 2.5 meters in length ?

I'll tell you what happened..

Whatever sentinent life showed up here a long time ago basically said "return to the ship and nuke the site from orbit"

And you know what? They were right.

Re:Seriously... f@#k that (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434995)

Whatever sentinent life showed up here a long time ago basically said "return to the ship and nuke the site from orbit"
And umpteen million years later, instead of water dwelling arthropods with no technology, who can't even support their own weight on dry land, they've got to deal with a horde of vicious hairless monkeys with nukes of our own. They're probably kicking themselves right now, assuming their anatomy allows such a feat.

no no no.... (2, Funny)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434451)

Anyone who has seen Clash of the Titans knows that this story is just silly. It was clear that giant scorpions were all over the entire region. There were not too many other giant insects, but there were swamps and robot owls....this much is clear.

2.5 meter man... (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434463)

I think the previous record of 2 meters would have been tall man sized. 2.5 meters is closer to the height of Robert Wadlow (2.73m), the tallest man we have on record.

Ants vs Scorpions (5, Funny)

seyyah (986027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434533)

Jesus Christ. Where are our ant overlords when we need them?

Re:Ants vs Scorpions (1)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434579)

This just begs for an XKCD comic... but next to ants and scorpions it also has to have velociraptors of course!

Re:Ants vs Scorpions (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435095)

Anyone remember that ridiculous movie "Honey, I shrunk the Kids"? The part where they ride the ant and the scorpion in the back yard was comparable size? Might small scorpion for what appeared to not be new.

Jaekelopterus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434551)

So is this related to the legendary Jackalope?

Re:Jaekelopterus (1)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434759)

Yeah, I was gonna say .. (until you did).

Somewhere, some paleontologist is laughing his ass off.

Could be worse: imagine what THIS creature looks like:

SELDEN, P A. 1986. A new identity for the Silurian arthropod Necrogammarus. Palaeontology, 29(3):629-631.

A giant turtle? A giant _dead_ turtle?

You played way too much to RPGs when... (4, Funny)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434609)

...you start seeing giant scorpions.

Re:You played way too much to RPGs when... (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435291)

It just looks like an scorpion claw in the dark, if you take it to the light you will see it is actually a bat wing...

Wait a Minute (3, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434687)

The article said that all they found was the claw. Yet they've got a drawing of the whole creature. So the whole thing is 90% guesswork. There's no indication on the drawing as to which parts are factual, and which are guesswork. For all we know, this could have been a lobster, or a crab, rather than a scorpion. It could even have been from a small species where an individual had some giganticism disease. Unless they find the whole creature, there's no way of knowing.

Re:Wait a Minute (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434859)

Even better, it's a fossil. So, it might not even be the real size of the claw (it's not the original material).

Re:Wait a Minute (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434917)

No, the whole thing is a prank... did you see the name of the thing? "Jaekelopterus rhenania" that's not far from "Jackelope" [wikipedia.org].

Something tells me there's a paleontologist that woke up one day and said "oh fuck it- they'll believe anything we say."

Ever see a lobster with a disproportionately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21434695)

Ever see a lobster with a disproportionately huge claw? I've seen claws nearly half the size of the attached body. How can they say with any certainty that this thing's body is as large as a person based on a fossil of merely one claw?

Scorpion? Why? (2, Insightful)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434747)

Why do they call this a scorpion? Did it have a poisonous stinger on its tail? It looks like in their total speculation about the creature (the actual fossil was just a claw), they drew (see image in TFA) a creature with a swimming tail, like a lobster or a shrimp.
Wouldn't "giant lobster" or "giant shrimp" be a better description of a large sea arthropod? Maybe it doesn't sound as exciting, but why would they call it a "sea scorpion" if there is no reason to believe it had the most well-known feature of land scorpions?
Additionally, how do they know it wasn't a much smaller beast with proportionally larger claws, given that according to TFA, one of the leading theories about how and why such a huge arthropod evolved was an "arms race" with early armored fish?

Re:Scorpion? Why? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435273)

It's probably more closely related to a land scorpion than seahorses and sea lions are to their land counterparts....

Radscorpions! (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21434837)

Aha! Fallout [wikia.com] had it right for once! Now all we need is to find a two-headed cow and then the legend of the Vault Dweller will have no doubters ever again!

No Problem!... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21435011)

Boy!, fetch me my +50 damage Warhammer and enchanted armour!

In Other News (1)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435147)

descendants of Sub Zero file suit to get DNA testing done to see if in fact it matches the crime scene of Sub Zero's allegeded murder.

2nd Fossil Imprint (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435315)

They didn't mention that the fossil scorpion was found under the imprint of a 10m long foot.

Over 2M long? How's that supposed to work? (1)

murderlegendre (776042) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435671)

I was under the impression the the primary limiting factor for the size of an arthropod was the creature's copper-based blood. Copper based blood, when compared to iron based, is a much poorer carrier of oxygen - hence the size of the creature must remain relatively small, else the blood will be depleted of oxygen by the time it reaches the extremities.

Do scorpions, lobsters, shrimp have some form of de-centralized respiratory intake, such that the blood could be re-oxygenated at several sites around the circulatory loop?

Giant Enemy Crab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21435791)

That's nothing!
Ancient Japan had larger enemy crabs.

What's the big deal? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21435913)

They've got these things in the back of our local Chinese restaurant. Keeps the rat population down.

Crikey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21435951)

Lookit this one! She's a beauty!
She's gotta be ovah eight feet lohng!
Lookit the soize of these claws!
She uses these ... easy honey, you're alroight ... Oim not gonna huht ya ...
to snap her proiy in half!

sigh
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