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390-million-year-old scorpion fossil -- biggest bug known

Image: The reconstructed fossil claw of ancient sea scorpion, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae (e) and its size relative to a human male and to the sea scorpion (a), the trilobite Isotelus rex (b),...
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New Haven, Conn. — The gigantic fossil claw of an 390 million-year-old sea scorpion, recently found in Germany, shows that ancient arthropods — spiders, insects, crabs and the like — were surprisingly larger than their modern-day counterparts.

“Imagine an eight-foot-long scorpion,” said O. Erik Tetlie, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale, and an author of the report online in Royal Society Biology Letters. “The claw itself is a foot-and-a-half long — indicating that these ancient arthropods were much larger than previous estimates — and certainly the largest seen to date.”

Colleague and co-author Markus Poschmann discovered the fossil claw from this ancient sea scorpion, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, in a quarry near PrĂ¼m in Germany. This creature, which lived between 460 and 255 million years ago is of a group that have been known for some time to be among the largest extinct arthropods, based on both body fossils and trace fossils. According to the authors, it is believed that these extinct aquatic creatures are the ancestors of modern scorpions and spiders.

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