Imagine swimming through the water and seeing a bug as big as Tom Cruise coming toward you! Scientists have found fossils of giant sea scorpions that lived in the ocean long before the dinosaurs. This monster water bug was the Earth’s first predator, but the fossils weren’t found in the ocean. They were found in a river in Iowa!
The fossils show a huge sea scorpion that measures 5 feet, 7 inches long. It had twelve claw arms growing out of its head and a spike on the end of its tail. The scorpion probably did not use its tail to sting, like today’s scorpions do. Instead, scientists think it used it for balance and swimming. The creature was also very aggressive, and would catch its prey by grabbing it with its twelve arms.
It may seem strange to find sea creature fossils in Iowa, but Iowa was under the ocean millions of years ago. To uncover the fossils, the geologists had to dam part of the Upper Iowa River for a short time. They found 150 pieces of fossils in the river bed, and took them to Yale University scientists for study. The scientists discovered the fossils were around 460 million years old, and that they were a new species of animal they had not seen before!
A sea monster just five feet tall may not seem that big to us now. But according to James Lamsdell of Yale, most animals under the sea at that time were not very big. So that means this monster bug probably dominated the underwater world. “This is the first real big predator,” Lamsdell said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be swimming with it. There’s something about bugs. When they’re a certain size, they shouldn’t be allowed to get bigger.”
The full name of the sea scorpion is Pentecopterus decorahensis, named after a Greek warship, and it is part of the sea scorpion family. So it is not technically a bug. It did look a lot like a bug, though, and for a short time, it was the Monster Bug of the sea!