Say hello to my little friends!
Scorpions. Don't you just hate them? I mean, they're all small and creepy and stingy?
Well, what you see in the above picture is a long dead predecessor to modern scorpions. And, be glad they are gone. Be very glad.
You see, these scorpions were water breathers. They liked to live in shallow water near the shoreline. Pretty much right where you want to swim. And, their sting wouldn't kill you. Oh no. It would just paralyze you. Then it would grab you with it's two large pincers, and rip you to shreds with it's smaller pincers.
And, when I say 'you', I really mean....you.
You see, this is Brontoscorpio. And, maybe I'm exaggerating when I say it could paralyze you and rip you to shreds. But, probably not.
Brontoscorpio lived in the Silurian period, about 420 million years ago. And, he was an apex predator. There wasn't much in the seas he didn't eat. And, had their been creatures living on the land during the Silurian, it would have eaten them, too.
Brontoscorpio had proto-lungs. They weren't fully formed lungs, so they wouldn't support living on land full time, but they did allow them to breathe long enough to molt their exoskeleton. And, for brontoscorpio, that was no small task. The bigger you are, the longer it takes.
Did I mention that Brontoscorpio grew to about a meter in length? It's stinger? About the size of a lightbulb.
So, while you might have been safe from him, small children most certainly wouldn't have been. And, I'd be willing to bet he would have gone for you, too.
He was, after all, the largest ancestor to modern scorpions.
But, while he was a mean old sum-uv-a-gun, he wasn't the worst scorpion in the Silurian seas.
That title goes to Pterygotus. That was about as mean as a scorpion got. Pterygotus was the second largest Eurypterid, (sea scorpion), species that lived. (Jaekelopterus was slightly larger, but not quite as nasty)
Pterygotus would grow to be about 1.75 meters long, almost twice the size of Brontoscorpio. And it liked to eat Brontoscorpio. And, just about anything else it could kill. And it could kill a lot.
Let me clear something up for you. Remember I said Brontoscorpio was the larges scorpion ancestor to modern scorpions. I also said, Pterygotus was almost twice as large. Well, Eurypterids were sea scorpions. They evolved into crustaceans. In fact, Pterygotus closest living relative is the Alaskan King Crab. Eurypterids did not have lungs, and therefore couldn't venture onto land like Brontoscorpio. So, even though Pterygotus was bigger than Brontoscorpio, they took different paths, and only Brontoscorpio gave rise to modern scorpions.
Imagine swimming in the warm, shallow water off your favorite beach, and encountering a Brontoscorpio. Most likely, it would attack you, regardless of your size. And, it would follow you onto land. Your advantage would be your endurance. If you could run fast enough, that is.
Or, imagine wading in the shallow water. Like all smart beach goers, you shuffle your feet in the sand to avoid stepping on a nasty sting ray that buried itself. And, instead of spooking up a 2 foot ray, you spook up Pterygotus. A creature about your size. With big, serrated pincers. And it's hungry. And you just disturbed it while it was hunting. Make it to shore, and you would be safe, if you got far away enough from the water. (Pterygotus didn't have lungs, but neither do crabs and lobsters, and they can live for a time out of the water. And, Pterygotus had walking legs.)
Most Eurypterids weren't as large as Pterygotus, though. The average size was about 10-12 inches, with many not even getting that big. The example I have of a Eurypterus remipes, only about 4 inches long. (I'll provide pictures someday)
You don't need to worry about them though. They all died off a long time ago. Like, 225 million years ago. They were gone before the dinosaurs even thought about joining the party. Heck, Therapsids had to have their time in the sun before the dinosaurs evolved to kick their asses. The dinos weren't very thorough, however.
(ok...pay attention here....) See, the Therapsids were a group of mammal-like reptiles. They were Synapsids. (blah blah...holes in skull...blah blah) Humans are also synapsids. So, our ancestors were once mammal-like reptiles. Big 'uns, too! And they used to pound on the diapsids. (blah blah...different skull holes...blah blah). Until the diapsids evolved to be large enough to be called dinosaurs. Diapsids are still around too. Crocodiles, snakes, lizards...all diapsids. One thing the synapsids and diapsids could agree on was that anapsids, (blah blah...again with the skull holes?...balah blah), were good to eat. We still eat anapsids today, if you like that disgusting food. (turtles). And, while the synapsids and diapsids were fighting, only to pause to eat the anapsids, the euryapsids, (blah blah...stop with the frickin skull holes already!...blah blah), just ignored it all and ate everything it felt like eating. Some of the largest sea reptiles during the age of dinosaurs were euryapsids. (no, an Ichthyosaurs, and a Plesiosaurus, weren't dinosaurs, regardless of the name). Today, you don't have to fear the euryapsids. There aren't any left.
Ok. I'll admit I tossed that last paragraph in there to see who could follow it. The main difference between all the *apsids was the number and location of holes in the skull. In synapsids, the holes evolved into our ears. All the *apsids started as reptiles. Remember I said the Therapsids were mammal-like reptiles? That's because they were reptiles....that had fur. (some of them, at least.)
Anyway.....I think I've added enough confusion to this post for today.
Oh, before I forget, while synapsids started as reptiles, the only living synapsids today are mammals. And synapsids have joined with sauropsids, (no...not even going there), and amphibians to make up the Tetrapods. Great name for a band, eh?