Sea scorpions slashed victims with swordlike tails | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


How Bizarre

Sea scorpions slashed victims with swordlike tails

New fossil suggests the body part was used for fighting, swimming

By
11:00am, May 30, 2017
sea scorpion illustration

EN GARDE!  Ancient sea scorpions (one illustrated) may have used serrated, swordlike tails for swimming or as weaponry.

Ancient sea scorpions were hacks.

Some of the marine creatures had a thin, serrated spine on the tip of their tail — and that tail was surprisingly flexible, based on a 430-million-year-old fossil found in Scotland. Slimonia acuminata may have had the range of motion to strike large predators and prey, researchers report online April 18 in American Naturalist.

Scientists had thought that the ancient animals largely used their tails for swimming, primarily flapping them up and down like today’s lobsters and shrimp do and, to a limited degree, side to side like a rudder. But the tail on the new, well-preserved fossil curls dramatically to the side — a flexibility not seen in other sea scorpion specimens.

Story continues after image

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content