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Man Sized Sea Scorpion Fossil Found 216

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the try-saying-that-four-time-frantic dept.
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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Man Sized Sea Scorpion Fossil Found

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  • Man Sized? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tak amalak (55584) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:23AM (#21434321)
    Try double-man sized. That thing must weigh 4 times what a man weights. 2 times what an American weighs.
    • by tttonyyy (726776) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#21434405) Homepage Journal

      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.
      • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:53AM (#21434663) Homepage
        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.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:07PM (#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.
          • Not even ONE "I for one, welcome..." joke. When I read the story on cnn.com, I came over here assuming I'd see like 20 of those jokes. But not even one? C'mon, this story was tailor made for the meme!

            Well...I, for one, welcome our new non meme-using slashdot readers.
            • by JWSmythe (446288) *
              I for one welcome our deceased giant sea scorpion overlords. :) Ya, I was expecting it too, but I couldn't really put it together to make it work. Hell, they've been extinct for quite a while now. Unless they're.....

                  I for one welcome our time traveling giant sea scorpion overlords!

        • by aeroelastic (840614) <aeroelastic@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:12PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Floritard (1058660)
          IIRC stength varies with the square of the size of a thing. That's why giant ants in B-movies are a dumb concept. You can have itty bitty scorpions with huge claws they can carry around effortlessly, but once you start getting larger and larger you need to have more scorpion body not just to have that thing remain attached, but to be able to carry the thing around and be able to use it. I would think you'd want to be able to manipulate a huge claw pretty effortlessly for it to be of any use, otherwise it'd
        • by siliconwafer (446697) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:34PM (#21437145)
          While only a claw was found this time, I'd like to point out that this is not the first very large Eurypterid to be found. A complete Eurypterid was found, that is a few meters in length, at Lang's Quarry near Herkimer, NY. (Eurypterid fossils are commonly found there, and in many locations across Upstate NY and Ontario, Canada). A cast is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario Canada for the public to see. I don't recall the exact length, but it's taller than I am (at 5'11"). Most Eurypterids are pretty small. I have a collection of complete Eurypterid specimens but none of mine are more than 12" in length.
        • I concur, without both claws at least, and one body segment, it's impossible to say it wasn't more like a fiddler with one 5x-sized claw.
    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:46AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by IANAAC (692242)
        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? (Score:5, Informative)

      by d0rp (888607) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:08AM (#21434883)
      Man sized sea scorpion? Must be a cousin of the infamous Claw Shrimp [penny-arcade.com]
    • "Try double-man sized. That thing must weigh 4 times what a man weights. 2 times what an American weighs."

      Man.. it's ugly, too. Still, though, if they ever came back, they could easily get jobs as French movie stars!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zgregoryg (1061612)
      I should point out that these sort of creatures existed when the earth's climate was much hotter than today. ;-)
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      A giant fossilized claw discovered in Germany belonged to an ancient sea scorpion that was much bigger than the average man
      Maybe the average man was much bigger 300 million years ago.
  • Amazing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by downix (84795) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:23AM (#21434323) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:27AM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Your point maybe valid, but your analogy is off. Modern day horses are giants compared to their ancestors. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_horse [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cnettel (836611)
          While this is true of the horse (and current equine are probably the largest ones ever), there are many almost-current-size horse-relatives in the fossil records. They just didn't survive, and the ancestors to the current species of horse did. The "gradually larger" trend is visible only with hindsight.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        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 foo

        • 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 mamm

          • 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 year
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by GreggBz (777373)
            Passenger Pigeon, look it up. Extinct by the hands of humans in 1/100th of the time this took, and there were 5 BILLION of them. Scientists come in all political alignments. Most of them agree, that this is a very sound theory. The impact of humans upon this Earth is undeniable and factual. I don't care how you feel about it.
        • by GreggBz (777373)
          This theory is best illustrated by the species of giant ground sloths that inhabited north America.

          There were large populations of 4 species of giant ground sloth in North America before humans arrived. They were large powerful creatures with big claws and could easily fend off predators.

          However, they were probabbly slow, and easy pickins' for a pack of humans with spears or large rocks.

          Eliminating one or two of these species, probabbly interrupted enough of the food chain dependency to accelerate the exti
    • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844)
        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
      • 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.
        • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by BigDumbAnimal (532071)
            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 Generat

            • Wow, so I'm guessing that this Acacia tree instantly grows to it's full height once the seed is planted?
            • It's more like:

              Animal:"Hey! look at those yummy acacia leaves. It's a good thing they're not, like, 15 feet up in the air."
              Acacia:"Pesky proto-giraffes! I'll show them. I'll get my offspring to grow a little taller."
              Next Gen Animal:"Hey! look at those yummy acacia leaves. It's a good thing they're not, like, 15 feet up in the air. I wonder how Mom and Dad could have reached them, though. They're short!"
              Next Gen Acacia:"Pesky proto-giraffes! I'll show them. I'll get my offspring to grow a little
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              LMAO :0)

              Mr Dawkins would mod you +5 - Intelligent Design, I'm sure.

              The giraffe ancestor, IIRC, is some sort of camel, or at least that's what I dimly remember from my schooldays.

            • 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."

              Except the first generation of giraffes would die out, because they couldn't reach the food. Therefore no evolution due to extinction.
      • by kalirion (728907)
        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.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      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.
    • by magarity (164372)
      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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CrashPoint (564165)

        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?
        Because were that the case, they would also have found two smaller sea scorpions in the same place; one wearing black and the other looking for the six-clawed scorpion that killed his father.
  • Irypterids, eurypterids, werypterids. Bet they got some tasty tails.
  • Yes, but (Score:5, Funny)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:25AM (#21434345) Journal
    Can it rock you like a hurricane or summon the winds of change?
  • DNA (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by monomania (595068) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:41AM (#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.
  • by tttonyyy (726776) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:26AM (#21434357) Homepage Journal
    ...would be legging it the other way if I found that under a rock.
  • 2.5 metres (Score:4, Funny)

    by niceone (992278) * on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:27AM (#21434365) Journal
    The previous record was 2 metres, already quite scary enough. Well, I hope they keep updating us on any slightly larger seafood they find.
  • Headline (Score:2, Funny)

    by Ristol (745640)
    "Sea scorpion fossil belonged to biggest bug ever: scientists" Wonderful editing they have these days.
  • That's the second biggest scorpion I ever saw...
    • This one [borgefjord.com] is larger and heavier with a harder exoskeleton, but it too died out.
  • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:34AM (#21434443) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by pablo_max (626328)
    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.
  • Quick! Somebody get a gigantic bowl of drawn butter!
  • Uh oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:42AM (#21434527) Homepage Journal
    We're gonna need bigger a bigger boot...
  • by seyyah (986027) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:42AM (#21434533)
    Jesus Christ. Where are our ant overlords when we need them?
    • This just begs for an XKCD comic... but next to ants and scorpions it also has to have velociraptors of course!
    • by steveo777 (183629)
      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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Whoever wins, we lose.
  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@nOSPAm.ovi.com> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:44AM (#21434545) Homepage
    Some of the restaurants in Joliet Illinois, where I live have cockroaches close to this size.

    Cheers
  • by Rastignac (1014569) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:49AM (#21434609)
    ...you start seeing giant scorpions.
    • by MC Negro (780194) *

      You played way too much to RPGs when ...you start seeing giant scorpions.
      That, or you've taken just the right amount of LSD.
  • Wait a Minute (Score:3, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @10:56AM (#21434687) Journal
    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.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Even better, it's a fossil. So, it might not even be the real size of the claw (it's not the original material).
    • by TrippTDF (513419)
      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."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Think [langsfossils.com] again [langsfossils.com].

      It's a different species, but a close relative with similar anatomy.
    • There's no indication on the drawing as to which parts are factual, and which are guesswork.

      I'm guessing that when they say they found "a claw" (and show a picture of the rock containing said fossil), it means the other bits are guesswork. Maybe I assume too much.

      For all we know, this could have been a lobster, or a crab, rather than a scorpion.

      The fact that this creature appeared over 200 million years before crabs and lobsters evolved [wikipedia.org] could be a clue.

      Unless they find the whole creature, there's no way of
    • No way of knowing what? Eurypterid fossils are not uncommon. It's the New York State fossil. We know exactly what a Eurypterid looks like from head to telson (tail). I am not sure why this is such a big deal. Complete Eurypterid specimens have been found that are this big before. This is only one claw.
  • Scorpion? Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:00AM (#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?
    • by kalirion (728907)
      It's probably more closely related to a land scorpion than seahorses and sea lions are to their land counterparts....
      • by mcmonkey (96054)

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

        But where is that in comparison to sea cucumber:land cucumber?

    • Eurypterids have been studied since 1825. We know a lot about them. There are many many many complete specimens and they've been studied at length. I have an entire collection that I've found myself in private quarries. There is no doubt in the community that they were predators and that they did indeed have a poisonous stinger.

      We can't see it stinging another creature today just as we cannot see the T-Rex eating another dinosaur today. That doesn't mean it didn't happen.
  • 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!
  • Egads! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by ThePyro (645161)
    They found a Claw Shrimp [penny-arcade.com]! Big as a man!
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:31AM (#21435315) Journal
    They didn't mention that the fossil scorpion was found under the imprint of a 10m long foot.
  • I was wondering why Nigel Marvin didn't return from his last trip.

  • I tame them.
  • 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

  • Someone form X-Com [gamespy.com]!

    Lobster Man [gamespy.com]

    This is a staggering creature, taller than a man and boasting six limbs, it resembles nothing more than an aquatic Demon. The similarities between this creature and the Earth lobster have earned it the nickname of Lobsterman with the X-Com troops. This is a behemoth of the deep. A carefully designed fighting creature of incredible strength and practically invulnerable to missile fire. Its pincers alone can crush steel.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:34PM (#21436229) Homepage Journal
    said the claw indicates that sea scorpion Jaekelopterus rhenania was almost 2.5 meters long...making it the largest arthropod ever found.

    Other potential size challengers include the Arthropleura, which was a giant centipede-like critter. Although, it probably lacked the bulk of the sea scorpion.

    Another contender was the Anomalocaris, which looked kind of like a giant brine shrimp with two front tenticals. It was the first known "large" preditor. It's one of the odder Cambrian critters. However, it's classification as an arthropod is still up in the air. It may be from an extinct sister phyla to arthropods.
         
  • ...throw another shrimp on the barbie.

    And that's MR. SHRIMP to you. ;-)

  • The problem with these one off fossil finds is, what I like to call, the Yao Ming & Willie Shoemaker problem. For example: if in 100,000 years alien explorers come to Earth long after mankind is gone and dig up only the bones of Willie Shoemaker [wikipedia.org] or Yao Ming [wikipedia.org], they're get a very wrong impression about what average humans look like.

    The same problem applies to any animal species we uncover. We cannot assume the average size of a species by a single discovery of remains because they have too high a change o

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